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This just in… It’s still not going away

Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006

A commenter talked about this letter earlier this week. From a press release.

The Jewish Political Alliance of Illinois (JPAI) today submitted 4700 signatures to Governor Rod. R. Blagojevich imploring the Governor to remove Claudette Marie Mohammed from the state Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes. All the signatures were gathered this past Sunday at the Greater Chicago Jewish Festival.

Mohammed refuses to repudiate vile comments that Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan spews regarding Jews, homosexuals, Arabs, Asians and many other segments of society. Mohammed says she “respects those who practice the true tenets of their faith” which is coded, hateful language toward so-called “false” Jews who Farrakhan, and Mohammed implicitly, believe, among other things, “are a synagogue of Satan.” Furthermore, Mohammed refers to Farrakhan’s comments as “alleged” anti-semitism.

“We collected the signatures to remind Governor Blagojevich that he will not get a free pass on this issue,” says Howard Handler, chairman of the Jewish Political Alliance of Illinois. “Governor Blagojevich appointed a hateful, anti-semite to a commission designed to eradicate hate; this is analogous to appointing a member of the Ku Klux Klan.” Handler concluded, “a significant portion of the Jewish community is disgusted with Blagojevich and is clear he will suffer politically in November.”

The petitions were dropped off this morning at Governor Blagojevich’s Chicago campaign office at 1200 North Ashland, Suite 500. The Jewish Political Alliance of Illinois is a registered political organization which aims to further empower the Illinois Jewish community by participation in the political process; further information can be found at Further information on the Greater Chicago Jewish Festival can be found at; JPAI is not affiliated with the festival.

They’re a registered political committee, but they haven’t reported any fundraising yet. And Frank Avila is the group’s general counsel, whatever that means. Frank is kinda like Zelig - he pops up everywhere.

Still, that’s not an insignificant number ot of signatures to gather in one day.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - One Man Can Make A Difference - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 2:33 pm:

    It is Rod and his administrations into to circumvent issues like these and allow them to blow away with the wind, even if the wind is not blowing.

    However, the solution to the problems is to fix every issue that arises as this one and ensure that there is nothing else to be talked about discussed or written about in the media except; Governor Blagojevich resolved the matter with ……..and with………and with…….and with all of the disgruntle former state employees claiming retaliation.

  2. - Cook Dem - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 2:43 pm:

    [deleted by moderator for probable false claims]

  3. - Arizal - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 2:54 pm:

    I was at an Orthodox Jewish reception with Lou Lang recently and they were complaining about the payment for Social Services that they were running including Health Care. The Jewish community on the whole is going with Topinka.

  4. - Helm - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 2:58 pm:

    Handler & Avila are joined at the hip. Handler used to work for Avila’s old man at Water Rec.

  5. - Walt - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 3:06 pm:

    Howard Handler works for Commissioner Larry Rogers at the Tax Board of Review. Handler is close to Senator Ricky Hendon. Hendon may be using this as leverages for grants or something.
    Howard Handler is closer to Alderman Manny Flores than to Avila, Handler raised Flores over $90,000 and did fundraising for Congresswoman Melissa Bean. Flores is rumored to be supporting Judy Bar Topinka because of 1st ward Republican committeeman’s Jon Blessing’s (who returned from Iraq with a big warchest) threat to run for alderman. Topinka is promising patronage (better be careful) to Dems like Flores.

  6. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 3:09 pm:

    The bottom line is not who they are connected to, or the exact number of signature, BUT the absurdity of the Governor in supporting a racist, homophobic, and anti-semetic presence on the commission to stop exactly that. The Nation of Islam has no place in State government and especially not in Human Rights and relations.
    Also, even sister Claudette Mohammad said that the Governor was lying and that the governor does know that she was a member of the Nation of Islam. It is the issue of hypocricy and lying that also irks people. Yes, Jewish people are especially sensitive to this issue but so are MOST people with half a brain.

  7. - Niles Township - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 4:10 pm:

    OK, a few points on this one.

    1. The Greater Chicago Jewish Festival typically attracts more than 40,000 people. I’m not sure what the numbers were on Sunday given the unseasonal tempatures, but it sounds like they got about 10% of the attendees to sign a petiiton. Keep in mind there are more than 270,000 Jews in the Chicagoland area.
    2. The Jewish Political Alliance of Illinois is a non-factor in the Jewish community. They are not a major organization. I am active both in the organized Jewish community and in political affairs, and this organization is just not at the table, ever.
    3. To Arizal: To a small segment (and I mean small, like a couple dozen) of the community that owns nursing homes and is Orthodox, Topinka would be the choice whether or not this fiasco ever occured. This group is always GOP friendly.
    4. Notwithstanding the facts that I have attempted to shed light on above, I would say most Jews are not that comfortable with Blago, and never have been. Topinka has been more visible over time in the Jewish community than Blago. He has been trying a bit lately appearing at a Chanukah menorah lighting, a synagogue Passover seder and now having the DCEO send a trade delegation to Israel. All good, but still he needs to deal with the commission, and the error he made with appointing Sister Claudette. Either she should go, or the commission should be disbanded, and reconstituted without her.

  8. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 4:26 pm:

    Just two things:
    1. Blagojevich created this mess.
    2. When he was exposed, Blagojevich ignored everyone and let this mess stew.

    What kind of person does this?

    Certainly not someone you should want as a governor.

  9. - Zipporah - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 4:40 pm:

    Regardless of all the political mishmash that’s going on here — Gov Blago should not have appointed Sister Claudette and should remove her from the commission.

    I’m glad that JPAI is trying to raise awareness about this issue and force the Gov to deal with it. And who cares if JPAI hasn’t been at the table before, it looks like they want to be at the table and are doing their part in helping support jewish identity and thrwart anti-semitism.

  10. - Randall Sherman, Secretary/Treasurer, Illinois Committee for Honest Government - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 4:49 pm:

    Governor Blagojevich’s continued support of Mohammed as a member of the state Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes is just another sign of his utter arrogance. the governor has spent most of the last four years setting new standards for treating those who made his election possible in the first place like they were dirt. He has also used voodoo economics and budgetary tricks to prop up his various hair-brained schemes to bolster his sagging popularity (in the process alienating those doing business with the state, like the Orthodox Jews who run nursing homes and are falling into debt because the state is late in paying its bills to them).

    Now this continued support of Mohammed is driving most of the state’s Jewish voters away from Blagojevich. To go out of his way to tick off a loyal segment of the traditional Democratic Party coalition is sheer insanity on the part of Blagojevich, and further proof that he is unfit to hold office.

    Secretary/Treasurer, Illinois Committee for Honest Government

  11. - Bill Baar - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 5:17 pm:

    It’s not just a Jewish thing… Farrahkan said the streets of Jerusalem should be washed in blood because Israel allowed a Gay Pride parade there.

    Blagojevich has disgraced every decent thinking person in Illinois.

  12. - 2 sets of dishes - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 6:37 pm:

    Looks to me Blago and his brain trust figure it’s safer to upset the Jewish community than the Black community. Perhaps they assume the Jewish block will fuss now but later hold their nose and vote democratic rather than support a relatively conservative republican agenda. I would not take that bet, as Topinka has always been close to that community. If this is the strategy, it implies a very monolithic voting pattern in the black community as well. This may also be hubris.

  13. - Anon - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 6:39 pm:

    Um, 4,700? There wasn’t even 1/10th of that total. Not to diminish the issue or the passion of those involved, but it’s just an inaccurate claim.

  14. - Ashur Odishoo - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 7:04 pm:

    I think this is an artificial issue that serves as a proxy for the general public’s annoyance of Blagojevich’s indifference to the public concerns.

    This Council was not funded nor did they do anything. The political zeitgeist is intolerance for intolerance. I can not believe the longevity of such a non-story. I think mutiny is afoot.

  15. - James T Kirk - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 11:02 pm:

    First of all I think you should step back from all the Sister Mohammed Hating going on here, we don’t know if she has ever said a racist remark, this is about Farrakhan and the NOI
    The Governor thought that this thing would simmer down but it looks like it is starting to heat up again. The governors inaction only delayed the anger that Jews feel by his not resolving this issue. He should disband this Commission or ask Sister Mohammed to resign, doing nothing is what he chose to do. Saying that nearly 5000 signatures is not enough is silly, this was one organization at one event , if the other Jewish organizations really put some effort into it they could easily get 100,000 signatures.

    Beam me up Scotty

  16. - Papa Legba - Tuesday, Jun 13, 06 @ 11:48 pm:


    It is just another straw for Blago. Enough straws will break the camel’s back. GRod’s house of cards will soon fall. Bet on it.

  17. - Been There... - Wednesday, Jun 14, 06 @ 12:20 am:

    KI Kirk, are you on crack????!!!!!!

    Let me quote:”I think you should step back from all the Sister Mohammed Hating going on here, we don’t know if she has ever said a racist remark, this is about Farrakhan and the NOI.”

    Ok, let’s start with she is paid by a racist organization, she is an officer, she has not directly repudiated the beliefs expressed by that organization. WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH EVERYONE????? Are you joking, would you take a KKK board of directors or paid member and say, cool, can’t hold choices, beliefs, and discriminatory intent against them. THIS is such an outrage, it aint even close that BLAGO has got to go. Of course, he comes from a heritage an country that just so very recently was killing over religion, that I doubt he cares.

  18. - Louis G. Atsaves - Wednesday, Jun 14, 06 @ 6:13 am:

    Were these the signatures that were obtained at a Liberyville event? An organization was out there soliciting signatures on this issue a week ago. Rumor has it that they collected 4,000 signatures at that time.

    Louis G. Atsaves

  19. - Niles Township - Wednesday, Jun 14, 06 @ 8:40 am:

    Louis G. Atsaves:

    This event was in Morton Grove.

  20. - Merlin - Wednesday, Jun 14, 06 @ 11:30 am:

    I knew this would bite the gov in this general election. They played politics with it in the primary so they didn’t upset the black vote, but now the swing vote is in the burbs and this is going to hurt bad.

    Another thing that is happening is the low level dems sliding over to JBT. The Avila bunch, the Coconate bunch, the Coalition bunch and that is just the start. It will mean troops to get out her vote and let people know she has support from traditional dems. Not a small thing.

  21. - Mickey - Thursday, Jun 15, 06 @ 5:35 pm:

    Rod should apologize. Get rid of Claudette.

  22. - Mariam Givara - Monday, Jun 26, 06 @ 6:33 am:

    I don’t understand the people in the Jewish community who are trying to separate us into different groups. I believe taking Sister Claudette off of the Commission is something we should all support. The commission was set up to end hatred not to expand it. I would be just as upset if a member of a group that expressed hatred for African American was selected but then I think it would be a non-issue because they would be rioting. Why is it OK to make anti-Jewish statements?

  23. - R. A. Rosenstein/5th Congressional District - Tuesday, Jun 27, 06 @ 1:06 am:

    Comment: The question is whether the continued presence of one Afro-American Farrakhan supporter on the Governor’s Human Rights
    Commission will result in masive defections of Jewish voters to theRepublican Ticket of Topinka/Birkette sufficient to elect that
    ticket in November. Regretably,from admittedly my own perspective,voters especiallly in the traditional Jewish Community focus
    exclusively nowadays on issues related to Israel’s security and the new emergent anti-semitism. The hostility Birkette,Topinka’s runningmate has towards womens reproductive rights and his LGBT bashing
    (homophobia), apparently carry little weight with much of our Community.

    On homophobia, I recall that Rabbi Eric Yoffie, Executive Director Union for Reform Judaism,
    noted in his presentation at that organization’s recent biennial meeting that the first thing Hitler did when he assummed power was to go after gays and lesbians. Judy Baar Topinka’s commitment to preserving a woman’s right to choose can be questioned when she selects a staunch pro-lifer Joe Birkette as her running mate. Put this selection in the background of the retrogressive federal judicial appointments of the Joe Birkette mindset that President Bush is making to the federal judiciary that are eroding womens reproductive freedom of choice. As these rights continue to be eroded by the Federal Courts, an IL governor unlinked to the extremists of the religious right is needed to protect freedom of choice for IL women. And Judy Baar Topinka with her selection of running mate Joe Birkette, who is so strongly linked to the right wing, demonstrated she cannot be depended upon to preserve choice for IL women,Jew and Gentile. Contrast I suggest Lt.Governor Pat Quinn with the homophobic pro-lifer Joe Birkette. Does not the corresponding selection of running mates disclose more about the two gubnatorial candidates commitment to human values than a admittedly misguiided appointment to the sitting governor’s Human Rights Council?

    One post on the Jewish Political Allliance Discussion Group from Niles Township on 06-13-06
    makes what I consider a cynical remark about the Governor’s attendance at a traditional Jewish Hanukah celebration held last December, 2005 at the Bernard Horwich Jewish Community Center in RogersPark Chicago. I attended that event and was moved personally by the presence of the Governor and one of his young daughters and the
    engagement displayed by the Governor in the event. The Governor related the struggle, recalled in the Hanukah liturgy of the Jewish
    People for freedom from oppression to the struggles for freedom last
    decade in Bosnia of his own people. This representation given by the Governor recalled in my mind at this Hanukah event an earlier
    rendition given by one of my personal heroes, the devoted German Lutheran novelist Thomas Mann of the struggles for freedom of the
    Jewish People as a “light onto the nations.”

    If you read however the postings from Jewish Political Alliance Illinois, you sense the posters are out for the Governor’s
    head. My own response to the headhunters,which probably will be ignored, is to recall from the Torah, particularily the Book of
    Genesis, that Essau sold his birthright for a bowel of porridge.
    Having Joe Birkette as Lt.Governor,with his hostility towards womens reproductive freedom and his gay bashing, is equivalent to
    selling our birthright at a time the right wing federal courts so threaten to annul inalienable rights and substituting for them the
    equivalent of a bowel of porridge.

    Here is my own “spin” on the hypocrisy of our Jewish Community denouncing rabidly the admittedly misguided Human Rights Commission Appointment but unwilling to denounce an equally reprehensible action that disfigures America and Israel in the eyes of the World Community. To motivate the presentation, I first present here portions of an interview of Studs Terkel,the secular American Jewish icon by Amy Goodman.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you make of the people like Bill O’Reilly of Fox, of Pat Robertson calling for the assassination of these leaders?

    STUDS TERKEL: Well, what can I say about that? It’s burlesque, but no longer funny. It isn’t funny. Can you imagine someone calling for the assassination of the President, someone foreign? Why, we would have troops there immediately, bombing the hell out of whatever town it is that harbored those people. So, it’s twice now. I didn’t know the recent one. I knew the one about Pat Robertson, man of God. Man of God, a man who represents Jesus Christ. If ever there were an agitator, a labor agitator, it was Jesus Christ, who spoke of – well, we know what he spoke about, rich men and going – you know, having as much chance to get to heaven as a camel through a needle’s eye, and here is a guy –

    In another “spin” on the Governors admittedly misguided appointment, look first at the interview of the American Jewish Secular Icon Studs Terkel by Amy Goodman at

    Some weeks ago,I attended a presentation by Sun-Times religion writer Cathleen Falsani on her new book juxtaposing religious faiths and public life in American settings. At her side and making the introduction was one of the subjets in her book: Studs Terkel. The latter noted in his presentation that two of the worst bigots in America are Rev.Jerry Falwell and Rev.Pat Robertson.

    Enter now current Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who earlier in his career as Mayor of Jerusalem linked arms with those two “Horsemen of the Apocalypse”
    characterized by Studs as “two of the worst bigots in America.” Regretfully, the American Jewish Community remained silent on this “shotgun marriage” between Ehud Olmert, initially as Mayor of Jerusalem, and later as Vice-OrimeMinister and Prime Minister and the Christian Religious Right.
    Did not Robertson make his comment about Sharon’s stroke acting as a self-designated Horseman of the Acolalypse? Olmert admittedly showed common sense when he severed direct relationships with Pat Robertson after the latter’s Sharon diatribe.

    Was there any response from the American Jewish Community on this Falwell/Robertson diatribe about causative factors of 9/11 attributed to the LGBT Community and pro-choice activists? The thunderous silence here from the Community juxtaposed with the current denunciationof the sitting IL Governor for an admittedly tactical blunder of his Adminhistration, exposes us as hypocrites. How can we fail not to condemn Farrakhan,Falwell/ Rbertson in the same breath?
    This “shotgun marriage” only partially severed by Robertson’s intemperate statements on Sharon’s stroke, still remains operative to the sorrow of both Israel and the American Diaspora.

    Here however is a real potential breakthrough.Viz. the recent dialogue between Rabbi Yoffie acting in his capacity as Executive Director Union Reform Judaismand and Rev.Falwell at Liberty University in which the contentious substantive issues of LGBT Rights and Womens Reproductive Choice were raised. Perhaps this unprecedented dialogue negates Studs earlier characterization of one of these these two designated “horsemen.”

    Cannot the Jewish Comunity in IL, which has largely overlooked earlier diatribes of Falwell and Robertson on the grounds that these two “horsemen” support Israel, show consistency in its treatment of the IL governor and above all avoid repeating the mistake Essau made in disposing of his birthright?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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