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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 22, 2006 / 26 Sivan, 5766

‘Speak English’: Misreading a sign of the times

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | This is America. If you plan on responding to this column, make sure you do it in English.

Wait a second — am I allowed to say that?

Six months ago, Joey Vento posted a sign saying more or less the same thing — "This is America. When ordering, speak English" — at the takeout window of his popular South Philadelphia cheesesteak joint, Geno's Steaks. As a result he finds himself the target of legal action by the city's Commission on Human Relations, which issued a complaint last week accusing Geno's of discriminating against non-English speakers on the basis of national origin or ancestry. Under the city's Fair Practices Ordinance, the commission will investigate the complaint and could ultimately order Vento to take down his sign or face a fine for refusing.

The sign attracted little notice until the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story about it on May 30. That set off an avalanche of attention, with appearances by Vento on a slew of national television and radio shows. Papers as far away as Australia have taken note of the case, and more tourists than ever are flocking to Vento's neon-bedecked landmark at 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue.

For all the hullabaloo, though, there are really just two essential facts to this case, and both of them came across clearly in the original Inquirer story. This was the first:

"Vento's political statement — from a man whose Italian-born grandparents spoke only broken English — captures the anger and discontent felt by many Americans about illegal immigrants."

And this was the second:

" 'If you can't tell me what you want, I can't serve you,' he said. 'It's up to you. If you can't read, if you can't say the word cheese, how can I communicate with you — and why should I have to bend?' "

In other words, Vento's sign was intended to express a point of view on a controversial public issue — exactly the type of speech the First Amendment was written to protect. And since he himself apparently speaks only English, telling customers to do the same was a way to keep the long lines at Geno's moving — not to drive customers away out of bigotry. Geno's would hardly have become a roaring success if its owner had a habit of refusing to serve anyone. Vento says no one has ever been denied service for failing to order in English, and nobody has come forward to contradict him.

But none of that seems to matter to the censors and busybodies who regard Vento and his "speak English" sign as obnoxious and who are ready to shred his freedom of speech to teach him — and anyone else with politically incorrect opinions about designated victim groups — a lesson.

"We think it is discriminatory, and we are concerned about the image of Philadelphia," declares the chairman of the Human Relations Commission, the Rev. James Allen Sr. "The issue is not whether anyone has been denied service, but that such a sign discourages people from coming — asking for service."

But how can a sign written in English discourage people who don't know English? Anyone who has mastered enough English to read Vento's sign presumably knows enough to order a sandwich from his extremely limited menu. Anyone who can't read the sign can't be discouraged or feel discriminated against by what it says.

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In any event — and more important — since when does the "image of Philadelphia" trump the First Amendment?

In an excruciatingly careful editorial on the flap last Thursday, the Inquirer allowed as how "sure, Vento has free-speech rights. But sometimes one person's right bumps against another person's, and something has to give. Vento is running a public accommodation, just like those lunch counters in the segregated South where African-Americans couldn't get a seat. Some of the arguments that some of Vento's defenders are offering sound awfully familiar from those days.

"To be fair," the editorial quickly added, "the analogy ends there. It's hard to link any actual harm to Vento's English-only grandstanding. He's not accused of actually refusing service to any customer." Then why sideswipe him with the Jim Crow smear? And what exactly is the difference between "grandstanding" and exercising one's right to free speech? If it's "grandstanding" when a sandwich maker posts a seven-word sign in his window, what is it called when a newspaper company publishes hundreds of thousands of copies of a 450-word editorial for distribution?

It is one thing to say that places of public accommodation may not refuse service on the basis of national origin. It is something much more radical to say that a sign exhorting customers to speak English should be illegal, too. Anyone offended by Vento's views is free to boycott his shop and urge others to do the same. But nothing in the Constitution gives those who are offended the right to silence someone else's speech. Agree or disagree with Vento's views, a government that can punish him for expressing them in public is a government that threatens us all.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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