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The Fact That Texas House Speaker Straus Is Jewish Is An Issue With Some Conservatives

There is a fight taking place about who should be the next Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

The incumbent Speaker, Republican Joe Straus, was elected two years ago with the help of Democrats in the House.

With Republicans gaining many seats in this month’s election, some Republicans are calling for someone they feel would a more conservative Speaker to take the office from Mr. Straus.

Speaker Straus is Jewish.

Not surprisingly given the people involved in this contest , the fact that the Speaker is Jewish is becoming an issue in the race.

From TV Station KENS in San Antonio

“….a new series of attacks is coming from the Religious Right, with Straus’ religion used against him. On his blog, Texas Capitol Reporter Harvey Kronberg reports that robo calls have begun in parts of the state. The voice on the calls tells people to support a “true Christian speaker.” Joe Straus is Jewish. Furthermore, the Republican Liberty Caucus has come out in support of North Texas Republican Ken Paxton (R-McKinney), citing a New Testament Bible verse in its original endorsement. That verse has since been removed from the group’s officially posted endorsement.”

The Jewish Herald Voice is concerned. This newspaper has written about Jewish life in Houston and in Texas since 1908.

Jews have a long history in Texas.

From the excellent Handbook of Texas Online

“No aspect of nineteenth-century Texas history is without the involvement of committed Jewish Texans. Adolphus Sterne of Nacogdoches served as alcalde, treasurer, and postmaster in 1826, Albert Moses Levy was surgeon in chief in the revolutionary army in 1835, Jacob and Phineas De Cordova sold land and developed Waco, Simon Mussina founded Brownsville in 1848, Henri Castro founded several towns, Michael Seeligson was elected mayor of Galveston in 1853, Rosanna Osterman funded significant religious and charitable activities through her will, Sid Samuels and Belle Doppelmayer were in the first graduating class at the University of Texas in 1881, Olga B. Kohlberg started the first public kindergarten in Texas in 1893, and Morris Lasker was elected to the state Senate in 1895. Jews also established themselves in Beaumont, Brenham, Corsicana, Gainesville, Hempstead, Marshall, Palestine, Texarkana, Tyler, Port Arthur, Wichita Falls, Baytown, Corpus Christi, Brownsville, New Braunfels, McAllen, Alice, Amarillo, Columbus, Wharton, Giddings, Navasota, Crockett, Lubbock, Longview, Jefferson, San Angelo, and Schulenburg.”

A great book to learn about Jewish History in Texas is Lone Stars of David–The Jews of Texas.

An ongoing exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science  is called Forgotten Gateway—Coming To America Through Galveston Island. A portion of this interesting exhibit is about how Jews were often denied entry into America through Galveston for no other reason but that they were Jewish. The program runs through February 20, 2011.

The photo below is of the Beth Yeshuran Jewish cemetery in Houston. The large grave in the middle of the photo is that of Private Nathan Pizer. Private Pizer was a United States Marine who was killed in action in France during WW I.

Jewish folks have long served our nation.

It makes no difference what religion anybody is when it comes to who can serve in public office. We must remain vigilant. So-called states rights views, now all the rage in Texas and elsewhere , have long been associated with intolerance and injustice.

We can either fight back against this un-American behavior, or we can see the years of our lives wasted by extremists who refuse to acknowledge the outcome of the Civil War.

Political independents who often vote for candidates of both parties need to please consider what they will be getting from Texas Republicans over the next two years.


November 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Household Menorah—People Not Unlike Ourselves Sought To Kill Every Jewish Person On Earth

Above is our household Menorah for the first night of Hanukkah.

(Update—The picture of our household Menorah won’t stay up on the blog. So now we have a picture of the stained-glass menorah you see above.)

One person of our two-person household is Jewish.

In the lifetime of people still alive today, people not so much different from us made an effort to kill every Jewish person in the world.

There were people who lived in a society not so much different from the society we live in today.

These were people who had radios and cars and read newspapers and lived in apartments and attended movies and followed soccer and followed the Olympics.

Please don’t think this could not happen again today in the United States or anywhere else.

People have not changed so much from the 1930’s and 1940’s.

The United States today is filled with millions of people sick with racism and violence.

The best chronicle I am aware of the history of the Nazi movement is a three-volume history of the Third Reich by Richard Evans.

Here is a review of the third volume of the Evans history with links to reviews of the first two volumes.

Here is the link to the United States Holocaust Museum.

December 12, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up With History Of Jews In Texas

At the bottom of this post is the weekly Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The Texas Progressive Alliance is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.

Along with this week’s round-up is some history of Jewish folks in Texas. 

(Above is the original synagogue of Galveston’s Congregation B’nai Israel.  This building was constructed in the early 1870’s. B’nai Israel is still in existence in Galveston. It is the oldest reform congregation in Texas.)

Here is a history of Jews in Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online.

From that history—

“Jews have been a part of the warp and woof of the Lone Star State since the period of Spanish Texas. To the untamed future state came Jewish seekers of fortune and freedom. Heirs to the Spanish and European forms of Jewish ritual practice, the Jews of Texas adapted their seminal faith to the new ambience… Though some abandoned their roots, most were tenacious in the nurturing of their heritage. Before 1821, Jews who openly practiced their religion could not legally live in Texas, a Spanish colony where only Catholics could take up residence. …(However) by 1838 Jews were living in Velasco, Bolivar, Nacogdoches, Goliad, San Antonio, and Galveston. Their settlement pattern was repeated numerous times: first the formation of a cemetery-benevolent society, followed by a synagogue, formal or informal. Jewish cemeteries were established in Galveston in 1852, Houston in 1854, San Antonio in 1856, Victoria in 1858 and Jefferson in 1862. The first chartered Jewish congregation in Texas was Congregation Beth Israel, Houston, founded in 1859.”

Here is a link to a sermon called “The Uniqueness of Texas Jews” given by Rabbi Samuel M. Stahl of San Antonio’s Temple Beth-El.   

Here is the Texas Jewish Historical Society which is located in Austin. 

The TPA round-up 

Halliburton was fracking for Cabot and…Oh Oops! We Spilled Some! TWICE! Deadly Hydraulic Fracture Fluid! Ironically, industry just released part of their $80 million propaganda campaign asking people to submit “Eureka” moments. From TXsharon at Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

Congressman “Deer in the headlights” Pete Olson (R-TX) gets called out at his town hall meetingand the police are called in! John Coby at Bay Area Houston posts the deets.

The Texas Cloverleaf wonders when police departments will enter the 21st century. A San Antonio lesbian couple sues in federal court over blatant harassment in their own home.

This week at McBlogger, Mayor McSleaze took the time out of his life to educate you people on some things going on around the country.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes Rick Perry won’t admit execution might have been a mistake. To be a Republican is never to say you’re sorry. Continue reading

September 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Stone The Builders Rejected

Reading my Passover Haggadah at our household Seder last night , I came across my favorite words in the Bible. They are from Psalm 118 and are as follows—  

The stone which the builders rejected (has) become the chief corner-stone.

Below is the Hebrew–

אֶבֶן, מָאֲסוּ הַבּוֹנִים–    הָיְתָה, לְרֹאשׁ פִּנָּה.

Here is the entire Psalm in English and in Hebrew. 

Above is the cornerstone of  Gemiluth Chessed Synagogue in Port Gibson, Mississippi. This synagogue, now closed, has an interesting history and is well worth clicking to link to read about.

Here is information about Port Gibson, Mississippi.

Please click here to read about the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience.

The Stone that the builders rejected is become the chief corner-stone is a bible verse an aging punk rocker can love. (Please click here to read my greatest punk rock moments.) 

In the beginning you are at odds with the world. But with time and effort, people will come around to see what you have been seeing.  

If you stay the course and work at it, you can be the stone that was rejected, but that is now a cornerstone in the lives of others.

April 10, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Living In Harris County, Texas Has Made Me Hispanic

The Harris County, Texas Clerk’s office reports that nearly 150,000 voters with Hispanic sounding surnames are likely to vote in the county in 2008.

Houston, where I live, is in Harris County.

I’m pretty sure I’m one of those so-called Hispanic voters. My last name is A-Q-U-I-N-O.

I once worked with someone in Houston who after knowing me a year blurted out “You don’t seem Hispanic at all.”

Right she was—I’m Italian. At least I am everywhere except the Harris County Clerk’s office.

Or when I get an occasional piece of junk mail or a phone solicitation in Spanish.

My wife and I once went to Italy. Over there they thought she was the Italian. Really she’s Jewish. The dark curly hair tricked the Italians.

(Above is a picture of my homeland—Naples, Italy. I’m glad to report that the wife and I once made it to Naples.)

Growing up on the East Side of Providence, Rhode Island, I recall many teachers who would trip over the pronunciation of my name at the beginning of the school year.

Uh-queen-o is how you say it. (The little cruds I went to school with never tired of pointing out the “queen” part. In Houston I’m a Hispanic Italian. In Providence I was a straight queen.)

The East Side had fewer Italians than other parts of Providence.  So I had clueless teachers and kids who could not help but comment on my name, despite the fact I was part of the largest single ethnic group in the city.

My elementary school and middle school years were in Providence. I went to high school in Cincinnati, Ohio. The high school I went to was 95% black.

Nobody took me for black.

My father once told me to trust people with many vowels in their last name. He meant Italians, but I’ve expanded it to include anybody who fits that bill.

(My wife, who is in fact the best person ever, has kept her two-vowel maiden name. You can’t have everything)

I was in a store last week. I noticed on the name tag of the man ringing me up that he had every single vowel in last name.

All of them!

I praised him for this. I said–“Man, you have every vowel in your last name. That’s great.”

He said, “You noticed.”

I think he was proud of the fact.

Justly so.

I asked the ethinicity of his name.

He said “Persian.”

I said, “Iranian?”

He said yes. He was friendly about it all.

Of course he was friendly—His name was loaded with vowels.

The man seemed somewhat hesitant say Iranian because America is at odds with Iran right now.

Iran is defined as the enemy.

If Iran is the enemy, why did that guy have so many vowels in his name?

I’m not Hispanic. My wife is not Italian. That man at the store was no enemy.

When other people define who you are or what you are, they will most likely get it wrong.

December 30, 2007 Posted by | Cincinnati, Houston, Immigration, My Wife Is The Best Person Ever | , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments