Due to an E. coli outbreak that has now affected 13 states including Ohio, Consumer Report took the unusual step of suggesting temporarily avoiding romaine lettuce. While the CDC hasn’t yet declared romaine lettuce to be the culprit in the outbreak, Consumer Reports’ suggestion is based on romaine lettuce’s implication in a similar outbreak in Canada.
The state liquor stores are doing a major sale – major metzias – Google “ohio last call” and you’ll get articles – this one has the pricing and the sales price.
Time to stock up for yourself and your shuls.
From Rabbi Simcha Dessler:
Due to the frigid weather and wind factor predicted and expected for tomorrow there will be no school .
We wish everyone a safe day and a wonderful, relaxing Shabbos.
From Rabbi Joel:
Due to the extreme cold (expected wind chill of -21 degrees in the morning), the Fuchs Mizrachi School will be closed tomorrow, January 5th.
The second grade Mesibat Chumash will still take place as scheduled
Have a warm and great Shabbat!
Newly installed Mayor Brennan fired University Heights’ Fire Chief Zook on his first day in office. He named Captain Perko as the interim replacement. This move was generally expected and in line with Brennan’s campaign promises to better support the city’s fire department, firefighters, and address their safety concerns as outlined in a letter
As chief, Perko said he intends to work on improving fire prevention and public education, and to increase firefighter training and development.
Local Jewish News is encouraged that Mayor Brennan has immediately focused on improving fire safety in the city. We look forward to similar attention to the recent escalation in criminal activity in University Heights.
MetroHealth will be opening a hospital at the Severance Circle facility on January 4th. With the addition of 12 beds to the facility, the hospital will be aimed at treating adults with less serious conditions that need short-term hospitalization. There will be no planned newborn deliveries.
The hospital will have a Bikur Cholim room. Further, in an effort to understand the frum community’s needs and cater care to it, MetroHealth has consulted with Rabbi Akiva Feinstein and others.
The team at MetroHealth also said they were working to enhance the patient experience, particularly for the Orthodox community. MetroHealth consulted Rabbi Akiva Feinstein, a full-time chaplain at Montefiore in Beachwood who also works through the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s chaplaincy program, for advice on better serving the needs of Jewish patients.
On January 2, 2018 Michael D. Brennan will be sworn in as the new City of University Heights’ Mayor. The swearing in ceremony will be held at 7pm at the Dolan Science Center at John Carroll University with a desert reception beforehand, including kosher items, requested by Mayor-Elect Brennan specifically for our community.
Councilwoman Michele Weiss is encouraging members of our community to attend to show our appreciation and to remain involved in directing our city’s future. She said “Our community was instrumental in electing Mayor Elect Brennan. Furthermore, this election demonstrated that every vote counts.”
More information about the event can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/145397712774018.
Download the information about 529 Accounts below as a two-page PDF from Agudath Israel.
1. What is a “529” plan?
A 529 plan is a special, tax-advantaged account designed to encourage saving for college (including certain post-secondary yeshivos). The federal tax advantage is that earnings on funds contributed to 529 accounts are not federally taxed.
Example: Parent deposits $1,000 into Child’s 529 account at Child’s birth. The 529 account is worth $2,500 when Child attends college. If the $2,500 is properly used to pay college expenses, there is no federal tax on the $1,500 earned.
2. Are there any benefits to 529 plans at the state level?
Yes! In many states, the principal contributed to the plan is deductible for state income taxes. State laws on this point vary widely.
Example: Ohio parent deposits $2,000 into child’s Ohio 529 account to save for college. If parent’s income was $100,000 that year, after the deduction, Ohio will view that income as $98,000. Ohio allows a deduction from state taxes up to $2000 per beneficiary. The amount of savings will depend on the filer’s state income tax rate and the number of beneficiaries for which they contribute.
3. Any there other potential 529 benefits?
Yes. Upromise, a Sallie Mae company, offers automatic deposits to 529 accounts, at no cost to account holders, of up to 5% of retail, travel, and other purchases paid for by a Upromise linked credit card. These free contributions may not be game-changing, but they add up.
Also, the existence of a tax-advantaged account, with potential tax advantages for contributors, provides an address, and incentivizes assistance, from friends or family who may not have otherwise assisted.
4. Why are you telling me this? What’s changed?
While 529 accounts have been available for use toward paying college expenses for decades, effective 1/1/2018, federal law expands the allowable use of 529s to include K-12 expenses.
5. What does that mean for me, a yeshiva parent?
In addition to being a significant, symbolic, national school-choice victory, encouraged by Agudath Israel and other nonpublic school groups as part of our tax advocacy efforts on the federal level, it means that a new, beneficial vehicle will be available to help plan for the tremendous expense our community bears in paying yeshiva tuitions. Parents (and others) can set up and deposit money in 529 accounts, have that money grow, federally tax-free, and use the funds for K-12 yeshiva tuition.
6. You said that a change occurred at the federal level to expand 529s to K-12 expenses. What does that mean for the state deduction opportunities mentioned?
That is a critical question now. If allowed, this would be of further assistance to yeshiva parents. K-12 state deductibility would allow parents to attain long-term (federal) benefits, and more immediate (state) benefits.
Caveat #1: States have not yet legislatively reacted to the new federal law. Some states may adjust their laws to favorably embrace K-12 expenses to complement their existing college savings deduction benefits, others may not. Ohio law, currently, would seem to not allow a deduction for K-12 expenditures. Agudath Israel is actively working to address this for the 2018 tax year.
Caveat #2: Benefit specifics vary widely from state to state. For example: in Ohio contributions, including rollover contributions, to a Ohio 529 plan of up to $2,000 per beneficiary per year (any filing status) are deductible in computing Ohio taxable income, with an unlimited carry forward of excess contributions. Contribution deadline in Ohio is December 29. New York has a maximum deductible amount of $10,000 per year for married filing joint filers. New Jersey offers NO state tax deduction, although it does offer a matching college scholarship program for 529 deposits. (More on that coming soon from Agudah’s NJ Director, Rabbi Avi Schnall.) Colorado offers unlimited deductions for 529 contributions. States like Florida or Texas, that have no state income tax, obviously do not offer state tax deductions.
7. Can I realize a state tax deduction even if I need to use the money sooner than expected?
The greatest tax benefit will come from keeping funds in the 529 account for a longer period of time, so growth occurs federally tax-free. However, it is possible to realize the state tax benefit, if applicable, even if funds are withdrawn for K-12 tuition sooner, if the state-specific holding period is complied with. Check with your tax advisor for details.
8. What is the Agudah doing about this now?
Agudah is engaged in a coordinated, multi-state approach on this issue, following the successful K-12 expansion at the federal level. The multi-pronged approach includes:
- Advocating that states which do not currently off er a state 529 benefit, now introduce one.
- Advocating that states embrace the new, broader federal definition of 529s which encompasses K-12 expenses.
- Defensively moving to protect 529s at the state level from current efforts to limit its applicability, in response to a change in the federal law that states may not have sanctioned.
- Advocating to raise annual deduction limits and streamline other plan limitations. After all, given the new federal guidelines, significantly more savings, and thus more deposits, are necessary for a parent to save for K-12 and college tuition than for college tuition alone.
9. What can I do?
- Stay tuned for updates from us and other sources on this developing issue.
- Consult with your personal accountant or financial advisor to determine if a 529 account is appropriate for you.
- We have opened a dedicated inbox – firstname.lastname@example.org – for comments on this issue. Due to the volume of submissions expected nationally, we intend to read every comment, but you will likely not receive a response beyond an automated acknowledgment. This mailbox is NOT designed to be a forum for individual tax questions.
- You can always contact Agudah’s Ohio director, Rabbi Yitz Frank at YFrank@agudathisrael.org with questions.
Top 4 questions to ask your tax advisor now:
- Is a 529 account right for me?
- What are the specific benefits and limitations of 529 accounts in my state?
- Is there an advantage to opening or contributing to a 529 account in the closing days of 2017?
- What is the interplay between 529 contributions and gift tax limits?
The above is not considered tax advice of any kind. Please consult with your tax advisor to determine your best course of action.
(Click https://photos.app.goo.gl/KLVbFCdc9fyE264O2 to view more photos from the event.)
On December 13, the second night of Chanukah, Motorcars and Cleveland Auto Leasing hosted a party at Motorcars Toyota to benefit Bikur Cholim of Cleveland. Guests came in droves despite the wintry weather, shaking the snow from their boots. Bikur Cholim staff and volunteers stood at the door greeting guests accompanied by Matt Gile, general manager at Motorcars Toyota, and William Evans, owner of Cleveland Auto Leasing Midwest.
You could tell from the start this was no ordinary event. As each guest walked in, they received a coupon package for big bucks from the businesses sponsoring the event! The food was fun, light, and totally Cleveland; latkes, fresh salads, egg rolls from Sababah, and what was literally a wall of Ungers donuts! Matt Gile gave a tour of the facilities, (yes, we actually touched the cars!) and we raffled off awesome prizes including $400 certificates, free car washes, oil changes and games for kids.
The main event was a show by award-winning hypnotist, Jon Wayes. The audience alternately roared in laughter and gasped in amazement as we watched him hypnotize some of the guests before our very eyes! After the show we raffled off more valuable prizes, and then CLE Zemer arrived to capture the jubilant spirit with live musical entertainment. It was E-P-I-C.
Kudos to all involved, especially to two great companies, the Motorcars Group, and Cleveland Auto Leasing Midwest. Calling this event a success would be an understatement. Everyone who attended is still talking about it!
There are new stop signs on every corner on Maple Road from Bainbridge Road until Wood Road.
The injustice of Mr. Rubashkin’s grossly excessive 27-year sentence was readily apparent to any fair-minded individual who reviewed the facts of the case. That is why so many Congressmembers from both sides of the political aisle, led by Senator Orrin Hatch and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and well over 100 former high ranking Justice Department officials and other legal luminaries, have been publicly calling for executive clemency.
Through today’s action, President Trump has shown that he too understood that something went terribly wrong in the prosecution and sentencing of Sholom Rubashkin – and, further, that he would not allow this blot on our criminal justice system to stand uncorrected. The president deserves to be congratulated and thanked – not only by Mr. Rubashkin’s family and friends, but by all who care about fairness and justice.
Agudath Israel has long advocated that Sholom Rubashkin be freed from prison and reunited with his loving family. That day has finally arrived.
Today, President Donald J. Trump commuted the prison sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, an action encouraged by bipartisan leaders from across the political spectrum, from Nancy Pelosi to Orrin Hatch.
Mr. Rubashkin is a 57-year-old father of 10 children. He previously ran the Iowa headquarters of a family business that was the country’s largest kosher meat-processing company. In 2009, he was convicted of bank fraud and sentenced thereafter to 27 years in prison. Mr. Rubashkin has now served more than 8 years of that sentence, which many have called excessive in light of its disparity with sentences imposed for similar crimes.
This action is not a Presidential pardon. It does not vacate Mr. Rubashkin’s conviction, and it leaves in place a term of supervised release and a substantial restitution obligation, which were also part of Mr. Rubashkin’s sentence.
The President’s review of Mr. Rubashkin’s case and commutation decision were based on expressions of support from Members of Congress and a broad cross-section of the legal community. A bipartisan group of more than 100 former high-ranking and distinguished Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, prosecutors, judges, and legal scholars have expressed concerns about the evidentiary proceedings in Mr. Rubashkin’s case and the severity of his sentence. Additionally, more than 30 current Members of Congress have written letters expressing support for review of Mr. Rubashkin’s case.
Former High-Ranking DOJ Officials Who Have Expressed Support for Review of Mr. Rubashkin’s Case
Attorney General Bill Barr
Attorney General Edwin Meese III
Attorney General Michael Mukasey
Solicitor General Seth Waxman
FBI Director Louis Freeh
Current Members of Congress Who Have Expressed Support For Review of Mr. Rubashkin’s Case
Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY)
Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO)
Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY)
Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
Representative Steve King (R-IA)
Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY)
Representative Richard Neal (D-MA)
Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA)
Representative Tom Marino (R-PA)
Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ)
Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Representative Ted Poe (R-TX)
Representative Jared Polis (D-CO)
Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL)
Representative Tom Reed (R-NY)
Representative Tom Rooney (R-FL)
Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD)
Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA)
Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ)
Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ)
Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
Click here to read letters expressing support for review of Mr. Rubashkin’s case.
Agudath Israel of America, a national Orthodox Jewish organization, recognizes that an omnibus tax bill such as H.R.1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, cuts along various lines in an economically-diverse population. Its effects on the Orthodox Jewish community will, therefore, be felt differently by its different segments. However, as many Orthodox Jews fall within the moderate to low income brackets and find themselves financially strapped by the high costs of Orthodox Jewish life – including the expense of providing their children with a Jewish education – we are hopeful that the legislation will fulfill President Trump’s and Congress’ stated goal of easing the burden on the nation’s middle class.
As a threshold matter, we are deeply disappointed about the bill’s elimination of the deductibility of personal exemptions and the limitations placed on the deductibility of state and local taxes. As a high percentage of Orthodox Jews have large families, and reside in areas that are highly taxed, these changes will likely have a dramatically negative effect on large numbers of our community.
At the same time, we are pleased that some of Agudath Israel’s top priorities were included in the bill:
In regard to education related matters, the expansion of “section 529 savings plans” – championed in the Senate by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) – to include tax benefits for various elementary and secondary education costs, including private school tuition, will encourage parents to put away their own money so they can provide a Jewish education for their children. This initiative represents an important victory for educational choice.
The retention of “qualified tuition reduction” benefit will help Jewish schools continue to hire high quality teachers and staff at competitive salaries and help parents by keeping tuition costs down.
Our constituency has a great stake in the child/family tax credit. The final version of the bill enhances this credit – thanks in substantial part to the diligent work of Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) – as it will raise the credit amount and the income phase outs, and add other qualifying dependents, in a way that could bring additional relief to our families.
We are gratified that the tax bill retains the deductibility of charitable contributions. But we share the concern of the nonprofit sector as to how the doubling of the “standard deduction” might affect such giving. We are disappointed that Senator James Lankford’s (R-OK) proposal, providing an above-the-line charitable deduction, did not succeed. We must continue to find ways to ensure that charitable giving grows so nonprofits can continue to step up and help address society’s many needs.
Finally, we commend Congress for retaining the Johnson Amendment, which for decades has insulated religious entities and members of the clergy from the inevitable pressure and division they would face by being injected into political campaigns. Keeping partisanship away from the house of worship has been positive for the political process and has been especially beneficial for the autonomy of religious communities and institutions. We believe it should remain that way.
Action alerts sent by Agudath Israel and some of its national partners generated tens of thousands of calls and emails to Congress on these issues. We thank each and every one of our grassroots supporters for taking the time to weigh in on the tax bill.
As H.R.1 has now been passed and will be signed by the President into law, we must all continue to monitor how its provisions affect the individuals and institutions it is intended to help. Federal, state and local governments must think creatively, and adopt legislation, regulation and policies that best allow the new tax bill to live up to its stated promise.