When Ellen Cannon was 12 years old and preparing for her bas mitzvah, her father took his prayer shawl and wrapped it around Cannon and her mother.
Said Cannon, "He thanked me for allowing him the honor of being my father, and then looking in my eyes he said, `Try to hold onto this: Never Again. I want you to make a commitment to Kol Israel because that's what it will take to keep us alive.' " That commitment is the reason Cannon was in Salt Lake Sunday night at the 1991 Salt Lake Jewish Welfare Fund Drive at the Red Lion Hotel.Cannon is a professor of political science at Northeastern Illinois and Roosevelt universities. She is a political commentator and producer for National Public Radio and serves on the executive boards of the American Jewish Congress and the National Task Force on Black-Jewish Relations, among others. A lobbyist in Washington, she spoke on Sunday night on American-Israeli policy.
Cannon spoke about the changing demographics of the American Jew. "By 2015 one-third of Jewish adults will be over 70," she said. At the other end of the spectrum, the 18- to 26-year-old Jewish youths "are totally unfamiliar with the Holocaust, totally unfamiliar with the struggle to sustain Israel or about the `generation to generation' program that helps Jews. I call them the `Mall Children' - what they know is from labels in the mall, they don't know from kashrut, from Torah or from tradition," Cannon said.
Jews have historically concentrated on one level of government - federal - according to Cannon. She said that when Nixon began returning power to the states during the early '70s, "Jews didn't begin to identify a Jewish agenda at the state level. You are a permanent minority in this country whether you are economically disadvantaged or not. Power is hardball - when others are accusing you of having power, say `yes!' Federal involvement is not enough.
"It was during the Illinois primary in 1987 that the major Middle Eastern planks for the Democratic Party were decided. There were just two Jewish delegates to that Democratic state convention. They alone voted against the inclusion of a statement about a Palestinian state without regard to the safety of Israel's borders or the ramifications of chemical warfare," Cannon said.
"I stood in the old synagogue in Istanbul last week at services for the 35 worshipers, adults and children, who were killed by terrorists," she said. "They have been long forgotten. The world was silent, there was no U.N. condemnation.
"I remember walking into Senator Paula Hawkins' office in Florida as a lobbyist and seeing her wearing a Lion of Judah (a Jewish insignia). When I asked Senator Hawkins why she was wearing it, she never even looked up as she replied, `Which trip to Yad Vashem shall I tell you about?' " Cannon recalled. "There is a historical Jewish alliance with different political ethos," she said.