November 2, 2004 Terrorist Threat Are you concerned about the effect on your investment portfolio if terrorists strike the U.S. again? What would happen if some backpacks explode during rush hour (i.e. Madrid)? Call Howard Lisch to discuss some preventive measures to minimize the effect to your investments. Asser Levy His name is on an elementary school in New York City and not much else. Clearly, he is not well known, yet he is the man who is primarily responsible for freedom of religion in the United States and therefore, the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. I am taking the liberty of writing about this poor butcher since September 12 was the 350th anniversary of Jews in America and he is one of my personal heroes. In 1654, when 23 Jews arrived in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now New York City, fleeing the threat of Portuguese violence in their home of Recife, Brazil, no colony in America had yet allowed any person not of their own religious persuasion into that colony. Governor Peter Stuyvesant threw two of their number in jail as security for the money still owed for their passage from the Caribbean. Those at liberty were able to pay off their fare by auctioning off their remaining goods. Peter Stuyvesant then sent a request to his supervisor in the Dutch West India Company for permission to expel immediately the “members of this deceitful race-such hateful enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ”, the Dutch Reformed Stuyvesant recognized the threat posed by their presence; if the right to settle was granted to the Jews, he argued, then the colony would be unable to deny it to the Lutherans and Papists. Asser Levy petitioned the Board of Directors of the Company and they granted him and his fellow Jews the right to settle in New Amsterdam, but they could not worship openly. Next, Governor Stuyvesant denied Asser Levy the ability to help defend the colony, instead opting to charge the Jews a higher tax rate. Again, Asser Levy petitioned the Board in Holland. They voted to allow him to help defend the colony. Asser Levy thereby became the first Jewish soldier and Jewish policeman in America, a fact denoted in the chapel at West Point and by the Shotrim and Shomrim societies (Jewish fraternal organizations) in every police force in America. He then went on to create the ecumenical movement in America by contributing to the building of the first Trinity Church in what is now lower Manhattan. Afterwards, he was called to testify in court cases in many other colonies in defense of religious freedom, after seeing how the experiment in New Amsterdam worked. He is buried in a small cemetery off Chatham Square next to Chinatown in a virtually unmarked grave; the headstone has bullet marks in it from a forgotten battle of the War for American Independence. Each year, the Shomrim Society of the NYPD holds a ceremony at his gravesite. Next time you see an Islamic burkha, a yarmulka, a turban or a priest’s collar, think of Asser Levy, but for him, they would not be here. NY Times 9/3/04 p. E1, Forward 9/10/04 p. 13 Early Retirement Payments Not FICA Wages A district court in the Sixth Circuit has held that early retirement incentive payments made to tenured public school teachers were not FICA wages but were payments for the surrender of contractual property rights. This case should be applicable to most union members taking advantage of early retirement inducements. Holiday Gift Backfires A company ended its policy of giving its employees a ham or turkey basket as a holiday gift after receiving complaints from vegetarians and others. Instead, it gave out gift coupons with a face value of $35 to workers. The coupons could be redeemed for food at several local grocery stores. The IRS privately ruled the face value of the coupons is taxed as income to the employees and is subject to FICA. The coupons are not excludable as a de minimus fringe because their value is readily ascertainable and they are essentially equivalent to cash. Everyone would have come out better with the tax-free gift baskets. The Kiplinger Tax Letter 9/24/04 If you have any questions about the foregoing or any other financial matters, please call us. Remember, We’re Here For You!!