Paying dues to the synagogue

Churches rely on offerings to meet their financial needs.  Jewish synagogues, on the other hand, charge their members dues.  Lisa Miller tells how this works and how some synagogues are trying to change this practice to attract more members:

From Young Jews rebelling against paying dues – The Washington Post:

Traditionally, when an American Jew couldn’t manage to pay his annual synagogue dues, he had to apply for relief. This often meant a shameful conversation with the temple’s financial secretary, a plea for mercy and sometimes even a revealing of personal financial documents. It’s not surprising that many people in such circumstances would rather walk away than submit to judgment. . . .

Across the country, young Jews are rebelling against the old, dues-paying model of synagogue membership. [Read more…]

Obama as the liberal Reagan

E. J. Dionne, Jr., says that President Obama–in his goals, tactics, and leadership style– is the liberal Reagan:

To understand how Barack Obama sees himself and his presidency, don’t look to Franklin Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln. Obama’s role model is Ronald Reagan — just as Obama told us before he was first elected.

Like Reagan, Obama hopes to usher in a long-term electoral realignment — in Obama’s case toward the moderate left, thereby reversing the 40th president’s political legacy. The Reagan metaphor helps explain the tone of Obama’s inaugural address, built not on a contrived call to an impossible bipartisanship but on a philosophical argument for a progressive vision of the country rooted in our history. [Read more…]

Al-Qaeda is back in vogue

Islamic terrorism and al-Qaeda in particular seemed to be in the doldrums, what with military defeats and drone attacks.  But now that an al-Qaeda franchise took over that natural gas installation in Algeria–at last count, 38 hostages killed, including 3 Americans–its stock is reportedly soaring in the radical Islamic world and more young people are getting excited about terrorism again.  So reports Joby Warrick in the Washington Post:

A week of violence in Algeria and Mali has transformed al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch into a cause celebre for militant Islamists around the globe, boosting recruitment and fundraising for the jihadists and spurring fears of further terrorist attacks in the region and beyond. [Read more…]

Is America in decline?

When it comes to economic measures and economic prospects for the future, the United States is not in decline at all.  So says a report cited by economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson (who, however, is not quite so optimistic).  Then again, despite what some people assume, economics isn’t everything.  Are we in cultural, intellectual, or political decline? [Read more…]

The new Immigration Reform plan

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have joined together to draft a new immigration reform plan.  It hasn’t been drawn up into legislation yet, but take a look at the provisions after the jump. [Read more…]

Did the Supremes cripple Obamacare after all?

George Will reports on an article by Thomas A. Lambert, a University of Missouri law professor, who argues that the Supreme Court decision to approve Obamacare by defining its penalty for not having insurance as a “tax” may, in fact, ensure its failure:

[Chief Justice John] Roberts invoked what Lambert calls “a longstanding interpretive canon that calls for the court, if possible, to interpret statutes in a way that preserves their constitutionality.” Roberts did this by ruling that what Congress called a “penalty” for not obeying the mandate was really a tax on noncompliance.

This must, Lambert thinks, have momentous — and deleterious — implications for the functioning of the ACA. The problems arise from the interplay of two ACA provisions — “guaranteed issue” and “community rating.” [Read more…]