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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


October 5, 2012  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Jewish newcomer challenges veteran

Jewish Press

Jessica Ehrlich Jessica Ehrlich As the daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Jessica Ehrlich of St. Petersburg, Democratic candidate for Congressional District 13, says she has “a personal connection with the state of Israel” and believes the United States must maintain strong ties with that nation.

The 38-year-old, first-time candidate is running against U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, 81, a Republican who has held the seat since 1971. She is the only Jewish candidate running for national office in the Tampa Bay area.

Ehrlich grew up in St. Petersburg and attended Shorecrest Preparatory School and as a child attended

Temple Beth-El.

She got her undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt University and a law degree from Southern Methodist University. She worked in the offices of then U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, R-FL, and Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-MA, and also practiced law with her father, Charles Ehrlich, who died in 2010. She has been involved with the young professionals group of Yad Vashem, is a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, and has been involved with the American Israel Friendship League. Her father was active in the Jewish community, serving as president of the Jewish Community Center of Pinellas County and vicepresident of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas County.

Cong. CW Bill Young Cong. CW Bill Young Ehrlich’s grandmother and newborn son Charles – Ehrlich’s father – escaped Nazi Europe to Jerusalem in December 1944 and lived in what was then Palestine for about two years until her grandmother was able to locate her husband (who she thought had died at the Dachau concentration camp) and eventually they make their way to the U.S.

Ehrlich says she has family and friends in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

She favors continued military and economic support of Israel and says it is essential that Palestinians and others “recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

“I think it is always important for people that they understand the community and people in Israel are very much like us here in the U.S. They want to live in peace and not in constant fear. This is something everyone wants for their children, whether they are Americans or anyone else. I feel people need to know what is going on there. The Israelis need to have their democracy and not live under terrorist threat,” Ehrlich said.

“There remains no greater threat to the safety and security of Israel and of the Middle East than Iran and its development of a nuclear arsenal,” she said.

Though Ehrlich is hopeful economic sanctions against Iran will keep it from producing nuclear weapons, she supports military action against Iran if needed to prevent that. The monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program by the International

Atomic Energy Agency has shown Iran is enriching uranium “well beyond the point of peaceful needs,” she said.

“Now, more than ever, the United States must remain committed to strict financial sanctions against Iran,” she said in a position paper to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), noting that the sanctions have devalued Iran’s currency and its trade efforts are suffering. (Riots broke out in Tehran on Oct. 3 after a 40 percent devaluation in Iranian currency, The New York Times reported.)

If the sanctions don’t work, however, Ehrlich said, “Iran must be prevented from becoming a nuclear state.”

On the Israeli-Palestinian relations, she said no steps toward a true and lasting peace or a two-state solution can take place until Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist and altruistically support the peace process.

The fact that Hamas continues to call for destruction of Israel is preventing negotiations and underscores the need for strong U.S.-Israel ties and for continued vetoes by the United States of any anti-Israel actions attempted at the United Nations Security Council.

While she supports Jerusalem’s designation as Israel’s capital, she says that “many religions call it their spiritual center” and “we want there to be coexistence. We want the Israeli people to exist in freedom and liberty.”

While some have called for the U.S. Embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Ehrlich said the first priority is safety of embassy officials. “There is so much that goes into ensuring safety and [choice of] locations and I don’t think it in any way degrades recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital” to have the embassy in Tel Aviv. “The important thing is that our relationship with Israel is strong and that economic support is there.”

She said the United States “is an amazing partner” with Israel and must remain so.

While the Arab Spring may have elevated hopes of greater peace in the region, the recent slaying of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Libya and widespread anti- American outbursts in many Arab lands run counter to those hopes.

Ehrlich acknowledged the Middle East remains a dangerous region, but said, “I am always hopeful that through the spread of correct information and education and the ability of young people to become employed, that knowledge and tolerance will grow in those lands.”

The more people in those nations learn about freedom and democracy, the greater the desire will be “for people to live and think freely,” Ehrlich said. “So I am hopeful that the Arab Spring will allow people to have open minds and engage with people of other cultures.”

Cong. Bill Young:

Longtime supporter of Israel

Young is widely-known for his long history of support for Israel, says Bruce Epstein, former cochair of the Pinellas Jewish Community Relations Council and a friend of Young’s since 1973.

“He has been at the forefront in providing weapons for Israel and the Israeli missile defense program,” Epstein said, adding that earlier this year, when Israelis were under attack nearly daily, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel was often on the phone with Young to keep him appraised of the situation.

Young is on the House Appropriations Committee and chair of the Subcommittee on Defense. He is also on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for the U.S. to set a red line on when military action should be taken against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear arms. Young said President Barack Obama has not set such a line and he said economic sanctions against Iran are not working.

“As long as the United States and other major powers give [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad all the time in the world, he will develop nuclear weapons and he has made it clear what he would do with that weapon, and that is wipe Israel off the map,” Young said.

He said Obama “should take a hard line in more than words and sanctions. Sanctions don’t seem to work. Ahmadinejad must know that the president is really serious that he will not allow them to have a nuclear weapon … I don’t know how much longer Israel can wait.”

He said he is convinced that if Israel feels waiting any longer will allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, they will take military action. As for a U.S. military strike, he said, “I don’t think we should talk about it. I don’t believe in advertising to an enemy what you plan to do.”

On the issue of Jerusalem being designated Israel’s capital, he said any nation should have the right to determine what and where their capital is and that “normally, we have our embassy in the host nation’s capital.”

Young said the loss of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, when he was overthrown, was the loss of an ally who was committed to peaceful solutions between Israel and Palestinians.

He said he is not party to the negotiations between Israel and Palestinians, but added, “It is good if we continue to have dialogue rather than war.”

Young said the Arab Spring, or Arab Awakening, as some now call it, is not moving in the right direction. The slaying of Ambassador Stevens in Libya and other anti-American protests throughout the Middle East are signs that the Arab world does not respect the United States.

“The murder of our ambassador is more than ‘a bump in the road’ as has been described by our president.” If it were done by a nation, it would provoke war, he said, but instead it was done by terrorists who “play by no rules.”

“I think the U.S. and our coalition allies have got to take a hard line with all of these countries that are supporting these terrorists. We need to say enough is enough. Right now all they get is an apology for whatever stirred up the issue,” he said.

Asked if that meant he favored war with those nations, he said he was, “not suggesting going to war at all. When a nation goes to war is when they show weakness,” he said, “This goes back to World War II. When [British Prime Minister] Neville Chamberlain suggested we could have ‘peace in our time.’” Young said Chamberlain’s appeasement policy resulted in war. “But had there been a harder line taken before Hitler began expansion, World War II could have been avoided,” he said. “Weakness invites aggression.”

“I think the first thing we would have to do is have someone representing our government to stop apologizing for America. We need to reestablish the respect for the U.S.”

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