News/Policy

Join JSPAN on December 6th for an Historic Reunion as we Celebrate the Publication of Ellery’s Protest

Ellery Schempp was a 16 year-old student at Abington High School when he defied tradition by refusing to participate in mandatory school prayer and Bible reading. Ejected from class for his actions, Ellery turned to the ACLU, which connected him with Ted Mann, the brilliant young lawyer who would draft a complaint on his behalf. That complaint eventually resulted in the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on school prayer, which prompted a conservative backlash that continues to this day.

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism congregations in southern California

The following letters were written by leadership from United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism congregations in southern California after the fires abated: Shalom Chevre, As all of you know, southern California has been devastated by fires. The city of Poway was not only ravaged by fires, but surrounded by them on all sides. We have been forced to evacuate our home, along with 350,000 fellow San Diegans.

JSPAN calls for Repudiation of Ann Coulter's Remarks

Ann Coulter, a right-wing Republican author and media darling, stirred controversy last week when she appeared on NBC’s The Big Idea with Danny Deutsch. Asked about her ideal image of America, Coulter responded, "It ould look like New York City during the Republican National Convention. In fact, that's what I think heaven is going to look like." She described her vision: "People were happy. They're Christian. They're olerant.

The Choice Columbia University Made - Then and Now

The speech delivered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University on September 24 has been dissected at length by the press and the media. What is less known is the fact that the university found itself in a similar position seventy four years ago, but with a very different outcome. Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, reports, on George Mason University's History News Network, that in 1933, Hans Luther, Nazi Germany's ambassador to the United States and a senior official of Adolf Hitler's regime, was invited by the president of Columbia to speak on campus and to be the guest of honor at a reception. The visit caused an uproar among students and faculty. Students who criticized the invitation were derided by the university as "ill-mannered children".

Reflections on Schempp vs. Abington School District -- An Interview with Ted Mann

A new book by NYU professor Stephen D. Solomon, titled "ELLERY'S PROTEST - How One Young Man Defied Tradition and Sparked the Battle over School Prayer," served as the springboard for JSPAN President Jeff Pasek to interview Board Member Ted Mann about his role in Schempp v. School District of Abington Township, the Supreme Court case that outlawed Bible reading in public schools.

Given your central role in the most pivotal church-state case in American history, I was hoping you might answer a few questions. The Schempp case was initiated by the ACLU. How did the ACLU reach a decision to challenge Bible reading in the schools? Ted: Sixteen year old Ellery Schempp wrote a letter to the ACLU's Philadelphia office complaining about the practice. Based on research by Bernard Wolfman (then a lawyer with Wolf Block, later Dean of Penn Law School, and still later a Harvard Law School Professor) who had concluded it was a very close call but that the case might be won, ACLU's Freedom of Expression Committee overwhelmingly decided that the case should be brought. ACLU's Board, on a 10-9 split vote, agreed.

Redistricting Program Attracts Large Audience

The redistricting lecture by Prof. Bruce Cain and Representative Daylin Leach drew an enthusiastic audience that packed a large meeting room at the Villanova Conference Center on August 22. The talks examined the gerrymander issue – when the process of drawing voting district lines is used as a tool to eliminate voter choice, and to substitute “safe” seats owned by one or the other political party. Representative Leach, a state legislator from Montgomery County, explained some of the process by which our present voting district lines were set in 2001. Townships were divided in as many as six parts in order to favor one or the other incumbent. Voters were “cracked” – moved away from a district to help the incumbent win reelection – or “packed “ – moved into a district in order to give an incumbent a safe majority. Leach brought with him maps showing the strange outlines of various Southeast Pennsylvania districts, and explained how they came to pass in the partisan redistricting process.

Update on Paper Ballots in

Last spring, JSPAN reported on the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007, H.R. 811, introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ). The bill would ban paperless voting and require paper trails, so that if a very close election took place or if there was a question about how the election results were arrived at, all votes could be verified by the voters themselves, using the permanent paper record. It was expected that the bill would have enough support to be passed this year if voting reform was placed on the Congressional agenda. But nothing in Washington is obvious!

Moadim L'Simcha - A Joyous Holiday!

There are many mitzvoth and customs associated with the Festival of Sukkot. We are taught in the Torah to build and dwell in the Sukkah, and we are also commanded to gather together the four species, our lulav and etrog. The Torah tells us why we are to dwell in the Sukkah and its symbolism; however the Torah never tells us why we are to gather the lulav and etrog, what they are about, or what to do with them. This became prime material for our rabbis and sages, and they taught many insightful lessons on the meaning of the lulav and etrog. I'd like to share with you one that I learned, (and teach), that I find particularly meaningful. Several classic midrashim compare the lulav and etrog to different parts of our body. The lulav, composed of the palm, myrtle and willow, represents our spine, eyes and mouth. The palm is a symbol of our spine. It reminds us to stand tall for our ideals, dreams and values; to stand up for what we believe in, for what is good and just and right. The myrtle is a symbol of our eyes. It is a reminder to see the beauty of our world, and the many blessings that surround us. But it is also a reminder that when we see a person in need, and a world in need of repair and transformation, we must not turn away.

Reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program

by Spencer Lempert In 1997, Congress enacted the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, commonly called SCHIP, to provide health insurance coverage for children of low income families. The program is designed to provide coverage to low-income children whose families earn too much to qualify for coverage under Medicaid. SCHIP is jointly financed by Federal and State governments and administered by the States who determine, subject to broad Federal guidelines, eligibility standards, benefits, payment levels for coverage and other administrative and operating procedures. The Federal government provides block funds to the States, on a matching basis for the fiscal years 1998 through 2007.

Diversity Strengthens Israel Advocacy

October 24, 2003 By: Martin J. Raffel Martin J RaffelOne often hears the view expressed that Jewish political diversity and inclusiveness are incompatible with a coherent, effective Israel advocacy agenda. If only we could emulate the Palestinians, the argument goes – represent one perspective, present one message.
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