We have all seen the statistics that America is graying and our country needs to meet the challenges of a growing senior population. Oftentimes, those statistics are discussed in the context of Social Security and Medicare, two very popular government programs. However, what is often not discussed is the concept of providing affordable long-term care insurance. According to the National Institute on Aging:
“Long-term care involves a variety of services designed to meet a person's health or personal care needs during a short or long period of time. These services help people live as independently and safely as possible when they can no longer perform everyday activities on their own. Long-term care is provided in different places by different caregivers, depending on a person's needs … It can also be given in a facility such as a nursing home or in the community, for example, in an adult day care center.”
Currently, in the United States less than 10% of Americans have long-term care insurance, partially because it’s not covered by Medicare and premiums are cost prohibitive. The issue gets compounded because 50% of people who turn 65 will require some assistance with long-term care and, given the exploding senior population, you see why providing “affordable care” is a problem that will only get worse.
Recently, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) introduced the WISH Act that looks to make catastrophic long-term care insurance more economical. Suozzi’s legislation would provide beneficiaries an average of $3,600 a month for care, with the timing of benefits determined by an individual’s income and physical needs. Furthermore, Suozzi believes this legislation would ease the government’s financial obligations because less people would need to spend down their assets to qualify for long-term care through Medicaid. Suozzi said, “We have a storm coming, with the number of disabled elders expected to double in the coming years. Fewer family caregivers are available for these aging Americans and the market for long-term care insurance is not currently sufficient to address these demographic challenges. The WISH Act would save the Medicaid program and millions of Americans from financial ruin, would allow people to age at home with dignity, and would create millions of good-paying, middle class jobs in the home health care industry.”
In addition, similar to Social Security, the WISH Act would not contribute to the debt because the program would create a trust fund that would be financed by a 0.3% wage tax on employees and employers. Also, Suozzi argues that the legislation would allow the private insurance market to offer more affordable plans because insurance companies would not have to guard against catastrophic long-term care.
It’s not just Suozzi who is problem solving; currently, Washington state is launching a long-term care insurance program that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2025. Benefits are awarded based on physical need and have a lifetime cap of $36,500. The program is funded through a 0.58% payroll tax on wages and individuals may opt out if they purchase their own insurance. This legislation is projected to save $1.9 billion by 2052 for Washington Medicaid. Like the WISH Act, proponents of the bill argue cost savings will be realized because people won’t have to use Medicaid to pay for long term care.
Nobody should have to go broke or go without care simply because they are getting older. As our senior population keeps growing and private insurance continues to be unaffordable, our country’s long-term care crisis is only getting worse. Legislative fixes that ease the financial burden on Medicaid and provide affordable long-term care must be examined. As we prepare for the future, we should work under the premise that caring for older Americans is more than shoring up existing programs like Social Security and Medicare, but also looking to find ways to expand care, which must include solutions to our advancing long-term care crisis.
“Even if there were no gas chambers at Iasi, still everything else was there: thousands of Jews perished in countless manners. Everything happened: the terror, the threats, the sealed boxcars, the hunger, the humiliation, the public executions.” —Elie Wiesel
Eighty years ago this summer—between June 28 and July 6, 1941—some 13,000 Jews from Iasi, the eastern capital of Romania, were brutally murdered by shooting and in two death trains on direct orders of wartime dictator General Ion Antonescu. The killings were carried out with zeal and cruelty by Romanian uniformed and civilian officials assisted by common citizens and German military units. No trace of compassion was shown the 35,000 Jews of Iasi (one third of the total wartime population)—not from high-ranking officers and army conscripts, anonymous employees or from officials invested with authority of the state; only a handful of officials and locals were recognized after the war as Righteous Among the Nations for protecting a few hundred Jews in total as the slaughter unfolded.
Iasi provided fertile ground for this atrocity, having the dubious distinction of being the birthplace of both the violently anti-Semitic Christian National Defense League and its genocidal Iron Guard offshoot that painted all Jews as Bolshevik agents, factors of dissolution of the Romanian state, enemy aliens and parasites on the Romanian nation. The Iasi Pogrom was the most infamous event in the history of the Holocaust in Romania and one of the most savage mass murders of Jews during World War II, surpassed only by the Romanian army’s October 1941 massacre of 20,000 Jews in Odessa and one carried out by the Germans in September 1941 in Babyn Yar. Still, the Holocaust in Romania—in which over half of Romania’s 800,000 Jews perished in a reign of terror that started even before the Nazi’s Final Solution went into effect—remains unknown to many, although the Iasi Pogrom is by far the best-documented event in the history of the Holocaust in Romania.
The pogrom was the natural culmination of centuries of state and popular anti-Semitism and fervent nationalist bigotry, manifested in no fewer than 196 restrictive laws against the country’s Jewish inhabitants passed between 1867 and 1913 alone. Indeed, the litany of persecutions and discriminatory actions against the Jews is too extensive to detail in this article. Romania was the last country in Europe to grant citizenship and emancipation to its Jews—in its 1923 constitution that adopted undertakings made in the 1919 Paris Peace Conference following World War I and offered the hope of a better future for long-suffering Romania Jewry, but that was not to be. Fascism took grip of the country between the wars, and the country’s Jews were the victims of numerous atrocities, including the adoption of the Nuremburg Laws and the deportation of all Jews of Bessarabia and Bukovina to the notorious region of Transnistria, where tens of thousands perished. I cannot overlook this opportunity to pay homage to leaders of the Jewish community—including President Wilhelm Filderman, Yitzhak Artzi and Fred Saraga who endangered their lives, traveling from Bucharest to Transnistria to bring material support to the deportees and rescuing thousands—mainly children and youths—and who posthumously received the Jewish Rescuers Citation, presented by the B’nai B’rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust.
The Romanian government officially recognized responsibility for the Holocaust of the Jews in Romania and the territories under its administration during World War II in 2004, but not before a public uproar over statements made by then-President Ion Iliescu a year earlier that "The Holocaust was not unique to the Jewish population in Europe. Many others, including Poles, died in the same way." These comments triggered the establishment of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, headed by Romanian Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, that presented its shocking final report in 2004, which concluded that “Romanian authorities were the main perpetrators of this Holocaust, in both its planning and implementation.” Since then, the Romanian government has clearly turned a corner in its recognition of the role its forbearers played in the tragedy of Romanian Jewry during the Holocaust. The 80th anniversary events—including an academic conference held at the Iasi University with the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania entitled “Remembrance, Acknowledgement, Oblivion,” commemorative ceremonies at three cemeteries where victims of the pogrom are interred in mass graves, a solemn concert and the inauguration of a museum on the pogrom housed at the former central police station where many of the summary shootings took place—were sponsored by the municipal, regional and national governments, with appropriate participation.
My visit to Romania as B’nai B’rith International’s representative to these events was something of a homecoming. My mother’s family came from Iasi to the United States in 1913 and family lore has it that my grandfather received a medal from the King of Romania for establishing the first umbrella factory there. Walking the streets and visiting the two remaining synagogues—out of 136 that operated before the war—allowed me to conjure up visions of this once vibrant Jewish community, the vigor it showed over the centuries and the Torah scholars, intellectuals, business leaders and common Jews it produced. My visit to the evocative Great Synagogue—built in 1671 and the oldest Jewish house of worship in Romania—was made particularly personal when Jewish Community President Benjamina Vladcovschi explained that, like all synagogues in the city, it served a particular guild; in its case the tailors’ (schneiders’) guild. Today, Vladcovschi leads a community that has dwindled to only some 200 individuals, most elderly, but strives to keep the candle alive.
The Jewish cemetery of Iasi, where the earliest tombstone dates to 1467 and some 10,000 victims of the pogrom are buried in a mass grave, tells the storied history of Romanian Jewry. There, near the stage where about a dozen dignitaries spoke—including Israeli ambassador David Saranga; Alexandru Muraru, special representative of the Romanian government for promoting memory policies, combating anti-Semitism and xenophobia; and Romanian Jewish Community President Silviu Vexler—hundreds of graves of Jewish soldiers who died fighting for Romania in World War I greet all those who enter this transformational site. Waiting in sweltering 40-degree-centigrade heat to take my turn to speak at the Targu Frumos cemetery, 28 kilometers west of Iasi, where 570 victims of the Iasi-Calrasi death train are buried under a mass slab of concrete, I could not help but relive the agony of the train’s 2,500 victims, 1,400 of whom died enroute from thirst, hunger and suffocation during the train’s seven-day journey. Following presentations by representatives of the Council of Europe and the German government, I spoke about B’nai B’rith’s long history in Romania, going back to 1873 when International President Benjamine Pixotto was appointed U.S. consul to Romania by U.S. President Grant at the urging of B’nai B’rith, with the express intention of helping the Jewish community overcome oppressive discrimination and anti-Semitism. 13 lodges had been established by 1887. These were closed by order of the Goga-Cuza regime in 1937 but continued to operate clandestinely until 1948, when B’nai B’rith Romania President Akiva Ornstein was arrested and tortured in jail, where he died in 1954. I appealed to all those exposed to the pervasive evidence of this bloodthirsty massacre to commit themselves to support the State of Israel as a homeland and haven for Jews, despite any parochial criticism of Israeli state action, and to ensure that such an atrocity could never happen again.
May the memory of the Great Iasi Pogrom victims be a blessing.
Durban IV, held this year on Sept. 22 and marking the 20th anniversary of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, turned out to be a debacle. This was expected.
But the lies that it propagated, like those of its predecessors, did not begin in 2001, with the first such gathering in South Africa. The world should have seen what was coming back in 1975 when the “Zionism is racism” mantra was introduced with the passage of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3379.
Indeed, Durban was and remains a most regrettable creation of the United Nations.
It is high time for the United Nations to reject useless distractions from its mission of promoting humanity and peace. It must simply prohibit this hateful commemorative event from happening again.
If member countries want to hold a festival of hate, they should do so without the blessing or the name of the United Nations. To go through this dishonest exercise of announcing something in the name of fighting racism, which prompts at least 20 Western countries correctly to boycott it, while others attend under political pressure, is ridiculous.
The United Nations should just save itself the embarrassment of having its name attached to this fiasco. The countries firmly committed to Durban are those that have called for Israel’s destruction. Many of them commiserate with Iran.
“Zionism is racism” is just a catchy slogan. Of course, there’s no truth in it. Zionism is not racism. The ancestral Jewish homeland, like Judaism itself, is built and based on a code of humanitarian behavior that is reflected today in Israel’s richly diverse population, one conceived in freedom, free will and mutual respect. The rest, let’s be honest, is politics and opinion. As in any democracy, Israel feasts on political debate. Its history reflects such energy.
For millennia, expanding civilizations made the Holy Land the prize of conquests. Jewish settlement there in an industrial world increased in the 1800s, even before Theodor Herzl launched the Zionist movement.
For 73 years, the modern State of Israel has blossomed as a legal, sovereign nation and is the foundation of thousands of years of the history and practice of Judaism.
In addition to Zionism not being racism, Israel is not an “apartheid” state. The mere utterance of words doesn’t make it so.
The construction of a security wall or other security provisions does not make it so. The BDS movement, another demeaning, delegitimizing campaign, is mostly harmful economically to Palestinians and enemies who perpetuate destructive “from the river to the sea” rhetoric. Israel does not exist on illegally occupied land. Research the Six-Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973).
These propagandistic themes are bogus. They persist without any basis in fact. Neither do such messaging efforts help the ambition, vision or hope for a Palestinian state. Any effort to guide or assist Palestinians toward statehood is getting a sneak preview in Gaza and parts of the West Bank (Areas A and B). They are not managing well, but not because of Israel. They are failing because of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which maintain the failed ambitions since the U.N.’s Partition Plan.
Durban will forever be known as a failure, the utter antithesis of the United Nations. So embarrassingly flawed is its heinous mission that it raises one question: Why allow these commemorations to occur at all? What is the purpose of the United Nations convening “hate fests” against a country that, in fact, delivers so many positive contributions to repairing the world? Consider the following:
The answer is as simple as it is obvious. There is no purpose in convening any Durban commemorative event. None. It is a waste of time and resources.
Surely, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, a man of peace, understands how such events linked to Durban are counterproductive. In the same way that UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) removed the Carnival of Aalst in Belgium from its World Heritage list in 2019, the General Assembly and its agencies should disengage from anti-Zionist festivals.
Such events are poisoning minds. As Durban IV is now part of the past, perhaps the U.N. can exercise its power to halt Durban V.
Read President Kaufman's analysis in JNS.
Charles O. Kaufman is president of B'nai B'rith International.
Lebanon’s new prime minister, Najib Mikati, made it clear in a press conference last week that he would do everything in his power to reverse his country’s descent into economic chaos. He said he’d cooperate with anyone and everyone to transform Lebanon’s current crisis, “with the exception of Israel, of course.”
Notwithstanding Israel’s offer of humanitarian assistance made weeks ago, Mikati’s throwaway dismissal of contact with his neighbor to the south is the stuff from which decades of Arab rejectionism of peace with Israel was made. It is a remnant of the Arab League’s “Three No’s” declared in Khartoum in 1967 in the aftermath of the Six-Day War: “No peace, no recognition, no negotiations” with Israel. Full stop.
Major breaches in that Arab League wall began with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s historic peace agreement in 1979, and then the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty signed by Jordan’s King Hussein and Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin in 1994. But early optimism that set in after these two agreements dissipated with the intifadas from 1987-1991 and 2000-2005.
With two anniversaries in the history of Middle East peacemaking upon us this week, it’s important to praise those who have taken steps to break with nihilism and rejection, and to call out those who have made a business of perpetuating violence and hatred.
I was among those present on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, for the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
There was a sense of incredulity and of “did we ever think we’d see this day” in the air as the principals, led by US President Bill Clinton, and observed by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, signed the appropriate documents.
I did not have a front row seat, but I was close enough to see the pained look on Rabin’s face as Clinton encouraged the Israeli prime minister and PLO leader Yasser Arafat to shake hands. Not pained because of the historic moment, but most likely because Arafat’s hands were soiled by 30 years of terrorism, and responsible for the deaths of so many Israelis in some of the most heinous acts imaginable.
It had to have been one of the most difficult moments of Rabin’s life — and it showed. I’m sure many in the crowd were asking themselves if Arafat could be trusted.
The other anniversary, on September 15, will mark one year since the signing of the Abraham Accords, on the same White House lawn. Many of those in the assembled crowd had been there in 1993, as well, though this time, they were wearing masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was also the same feeling of expectation and optimism, as President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain appeared on the White House South Lawn balcony, then descended the staircase to sign the Abraham Accords normalization agreement.
From my seat, I saw not pained looks on the faces of the principals, but a sense of breakthrough and accomplishment. In a way, the signing ceremony lingered, as if in slow motion, to allow all those present to savor the moment.
In the weeks that followed, Sudan, and Morocco — with its iconic Jewish history and ties to Israel’s hundreds of thousands of Jews born in that country and their descendants — joined in, pledging to normalize relations with Israel.
If there was anything discordant at all about the events of a year ago, it is because for the previous nearly three decades, the Palestinian issue was cast as being the indispensable icebreaker in Middle East diplomacy. It was seen as the Gordian Knot preventing Israel’s acceptance in the region. Policy maker after policy maker, in the US, in Europe, and at the United Nations, perpetuated this conventional wisdom. It became a mantra that guided any number of failed initiatives to push an Israeli-Palestinian agreement — by hook or by crook.
But, like the carefully executed back-channel Israeli-Egyptian contacts that produced the treaty between those two countries, forward-looking diplomats in the Gulf and in Israel saw solid reasons to find common cause to bring them together: a hegemonistic Iran and any number of economic and other joint ventures that just made plain good diplomatic sense.
The Oslo Accords held the same promise, but that was not to be.
Arafat and then Mahmoud Abbas continuously played a double game, at times paying lip service to the idea of negotiations, but all the while making it abundantly clear that they were unwilling to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, keeping their hand in the business of demonizing and delegitimizing Israel at the United Nations, and either signing off on terrorist acts against Israel, or rewarding those (and their families) who carry them out.
The words “good will” were never part of either leader’s lexicon. Since Oslo, an entire generation of Palestinians has been raised on a succession of false hopes and expectations; on hatred of Israel and of Jews; and on zero-sum demands by leaders who themselves have become enriched by their titled positions and political clout.
In the past year alone, trade between Israel and the UAE and between Israel and Bahrain has grown exponentially. Banking, cyber security, and environmental quality agreements have been signed, and academic institutions are partnering with each other. An important agreement to advance the quality of healthcare, including pandemic research, has also been signed by Israel and the UAE.
But perhaps the most important developments of all have been in the people-to-people and getting-to-know-you realm. Exchange students are studying at universities in the Abraham Accords countries. Memoranda of Understanding on combating antisemitism and on Holocaust education have been signed with the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco. Air links have been established between Israel and these new partners; hundreds of thousands of Israelis have already traveled to all three destinations, and the prospect of thousands of visitors in the other direction — to Israel — shows promise as well, the pandemic notwithstanding.
It is currently impossible to write a paragraph about the Palestinian issue with any of the same upbeat sense of the future. The leaders in Ramallah have seen this parade passing by and it seemingly hasn’t opened any eyes about their own condition. They are mired in hate and rejection. Try as they did to push back against the Abraham Accords, wagging fingers and issuing empty threats at its participants, they have shown themselves to be angry and hateful, living in the past, and cultivating a profile of victimhood that they appear to want to very much perpetuate.
This being the Middle East, anything can happen on any given day that can change the immediate course of history. But these two anniversaries present a stark picture of what happens when one party makes intransigence a policy, and when others see the benefits not only in burying the hatchet, but in working to make the neighborhood a safer, more prosperous place for everyone.
For those who have chosen the second path, happy anniversary.
Read CEO Mariaschin's expert analysis in the Algemeiner.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.
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