As a private citizen and interested voter in the South Bay, I attended an "open forum" featuring the two candidates for the 33rd Congressional District: Congressman Henry Waxman and Independent Candidate Bill Bloomfield. The "open forum" took place on Oct. 27 at the Jewish Community Center of the Beach Cities. Two days before the event, which was advertised in The Beach Reporter as an "open forum," I called ahead to reserve a space. The secretary informed me that there was no need to reserve a space or pay to attend.
When I arrived that morning, I was fortunate enough to run into Bill Bloomfield. He is running a spirited campaign throughout the district. Very soon, a number of other voters congregated with him to share their support.
As we had arrived just as the Shabbat service was ending, a number of the congregants were coming out of the main synagogue. I had the opportunity to meet some of the members of the congregation. They were all very kind and welcoming. Visitors from throughout the region also came to hear the two candidates discuss their views on Israel, Iran and the future of America. These constituents did not tell me if they were members of the congregation or not. Some members of the audience were not even wearing a "kippah," the traditional head covering which men are expected to wear when entering the synagogue.
At the outset of the open question and answer forum, Rabbi Yossi Mintz announced a few terms for the event. He requested that the audience refrain from applause during the debate. He also requested that no photos be taken in the synagogue. He further asked that there be no personal attacks against either candidate during the period for questions.
The two candidates then outlined their platforms and proposals in two 10-minute speeches, just like at the Venice Neighborhood Council this past Tuesday. Mr. Bloomfield touched on his humanitarian efforts in the Middle East, a record which I am now learning about more fully. Mr. Waxman talked about his efforts in supporting Jewish families to immigrate to Israel. After their 10 minute presentations, the moderator began taking questions.
The first question touched on the growing tensions between the United States and Israel, with growing concerns about the U.S. Government's resistance to Israeli housing in the West Bank. The two candidates offered their views on this matter. Mr. Bloomfield's simple message stood out, criticizing President Obama's current relationship with the Israeli Prime Minister: "Praise your friends in public; criticize your friends in private."
The moderator then called on me. I was about to ask my question, when Mr. Waxman interrupted me.
"This is a Republican blogger who has been writing nasty attacks about me." He seemed visibly upset, even scared.
With that, Rabbi Yossi told me to sit down. He told me that I was not a member of the community. I protested that as a voter and a constituent in the district, I had every right and interest to participate. I reminded him that the advertisement informed all readers that it was an "open forum." The Rabbi then interrupted me again, saying that he wanted the questions to come from those who were in the community who attended the synagogue.
I could not believe what was happening. I intended to ask a simple question relating to Mr. Waxman's record. Bloomfield also pointed out that the "open forum" was advertised for everyone to attend. I approached the Rabbi at the back of the synagogue. I told him that the meeting was for members of the community. He then said we would talk about it later. He refused to listen to me.
Once I sat down, one of the constituents tapped me on the shoulder: "So they're
not going to let you speak?" I raised me hand again—twice more I was passed over. The impression was clear: I was not going to be allowed to ask a question.
I then stood up and addressed Mr. Waxman in front of the audience:
"I thought this was an open forum? What are you afraid of, Mr. Waxman? That your record will come out? This is disgraceful."
Mr. Waxman labeled me the same in turn, then I left the proceedings.
As I was leaving, the Rabbi approached me in the lobby outside of the synagogue. He informed me that he had seen my blog—"Waxman Watch." He was worried about personal attacks. I responded that everything I have written is based on public records and research. I should have added that I do not need to engage in personal attacks, for Waxman's record indicts him without any assistance from me or others.
The Rabbi kept telling me to "calm down." He then charged me with "being hostile." Not once did I raise my voice or impugn anyone, but understandably I was offended by this scandalous refusal to let me ask questions at an "open forum." The Rabbi then told me to leave, that I had lost my chance to share, claiming that he was going to let me share, but that I had "jumped up" and left. Outrageous. I had received nothing but refusal and dismissal while attending this "open forum."
Despite this unfortunate outcome, I bear no ill will toward the Jewish Community Center or the staff. Honestly, Mr. Waxman's fearful refusal to let me share communicated more than any questions I could have posed. Still, it is both shameful and disconcerting that public figures refuse to let their voting public ask them any questions. What is Mr. Waxman afraid of?
Please defend free speech. Spread the Word: "Waxman Watch": waxmanwatch.blogspot.com.
Judge for yourself the record of a 38-year incumbent who refuses to take questions from prospective voters.
Vote for Bill Bloomfield for the 33rd!