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News/Policy | Jewish Social Policy Action Network


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The Best Way To Keep Israel a Jewish State

"In the aftermath of the war in Lebanon, it's essential for Jews - in the United States and Israel - to pay attention to the needs of Israeli Arabs. It may be the best way to keep Israel a Jewish state." In the August/September, 2007 issue of Moment Magazine, Nathan Guttman, a reporter for The Forward, argues for a serious engagement on the part of the American Jewish community with the issue of Israel's Arab citizens. Mr. Guttman suggests that most American Jews have very little knowledge about the Arab community of Israel, which represents 20% of its citizenry. "Ignoring Israel's Arab population has been the prevailing approach for the better part of the past 60 years."

Gerrymander program with CLE credit option …JSPAN Offers Program “Limiting Your Right to Vote”

On August 22, at the Villanova Conference Center, JSPAN will offer its first ever program with CLE credits. Entitled “Redistricting: Limiting Your Right to Vote,” the 2-hour course will present Prof. Bruce Cain of the University of California at Berkeley and Montgomery County Legislator Daylin Leach. Cain, the Heller Professor of Political Science, has a long record of teaching, writing and consulting to governmental bodies on elections and redistricting. Leach is the sponsor of legislation to reform Pennsylvania’s winner-take-all partisan process. Joining JSPAN as cosponsors of the program are the Montgomery Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the Committee of Seventy. Elections for the U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate and State House are held within district lines set and reset decennially by the Legislature. Often referred to as “gerrymandering,” this is a political process with few legal constraints. Yet it can effectively marginalize the value of each vote and control the outcome of elections. In individual contests by voters, including the famous Vieth and Henderson cases, court rulings have ranged from the strictest controls in some cases to no controls in others. Redistricting is a matter of interest to JSPAN because it too often undermines the right to vote. Pennsylvania’s district lines designed to protect individual seats run a crazy-quilt pattern. Legislators often lack meaningful ties to their sprawling gerrymandered districts. Delaware Valley citizens commonly do not know what three General Assembly and Congressional districts they reside in, or the people who represent them. Topics to be covered in this program include:

Atul Gawande: "Sick and Twisted"

The new Michael Moore documentary film, "Sicko", with its probing analysis of the American health care system, is attracting much attention from moviegoers, as well as the press and the media. In the June 20, 2007 edition of The New Yorker, Dr. Atul Gewande states that "our health care morass is ... the kind of vast policy failure that is far easier to get into than to get out of". For the first time in recent history, however, there is hope for real reform. Presidential candidates on every side of the issue are positioning themselves for the expected battle over health care. In Dr.

New JSPAN Board Members Elected

New elections for two- year terms on the Board of Directors: Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg holds a Masters Degree from The New School for Social Research in New York City and is a political activist, writer and music aficionado. Past activities include Music for America voter education and registration initiative, numerous blogs including Young Philly Politics, Blue Force and Future Majority, and city and state-wide political campaigns. Marshall Dayan, Esq. is an attorney with the federal defender's office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and has served as State Strategies Coordinator for the national ACLU Capital Punishment Project. Mr. Dayan has spoken for JSPAN on capital punishment and is the recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. William Epstein is the Director of Communications for Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Rabbi David Straus: Reflections on a Trip to Germany

Rabbi David Straus, spiritual leader of Main Line Reform Temple Beth Elohim in Wynnewood, PA and a member of the JSPAN Board, recently returned from an extraordinarily moving family visit to his ancestral home in Germany. JSPAN asked him to reflect on the experience for our readers. On June 6, 2007, along with 429 other students, our son Max graduated from Lower Merion High School. As many of you may know, the state of Pennsylvania requires that all graduating students complete a senior project. At Lower Merion, seniors are required to do 120 hours of work to fulfill their project.

Emergency Contraceptive Passes Committee

Pennsylvania House Bill 288 has just been reported out of Committee without any amendments and might reach a House vote next week. HB 288 would require all hospitals in Pennsylvania to provide contraception advice and the emergency contraception pill to victims of sexual assault. JSPAN has been part of the coalition working for passage of the Bill, sponsored by Rep. Daylin Leach.

Boycott: How Individuals Can Move the World to End the Genocide in Darfur

A couple of college professors captured the personal attention of two of the world's three richest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, and forced them to consider how their investments could be perpetuating the genocide taking place in Darfur. Along the way, they garnered over 700 newspaper articles around the world. How did they do it? They used their power as owners of a few shares in Berkshire Hathaway Corporation to bring a shareholder resolution before the company's annual meeting.

Comments on the British Academic call for a Boycott of Israel

Responses pour forth to the 158-99 vote by the University and College Union to circulate a motion to all its branches to discuss calls from Palestinian trade unions for a "comprehensive and consistent international boycott of all Israeli academic institutions." Within Britain, the move was immediately condemned by the Russell group of research-led universities, the National Union of Students and various organizations. In a hard-hitting statement, the Russell group "rejected outright" the boycott call.

Congressman Frank Addresses Annual Meeting

The Annual Meeting of the Jewish Social Policy Action Network took place on May 20. An enthusiastic crowd of friends and supporters of JSPAN joined together at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel for brunch and an opportunity to acknowledge the four year growth of the organization into a nationally respected voice on behalf of the progressive Jewish community. The Honorable Barney Frank, distinguished member of Congress from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for over 25 years and currently chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was the featured speaker. Board member Ted Mann, introduced the Congressman with a quote from former Rep. Michael Oxley, (R-OH), "It's people like Barney who make the system work!" He then described Mr. Frank as one of the fiercest wits and sharpest minds on Capitol Hill today.

Prayer, Education & Action Initiative to End Gun Violence

On May 20, concerned citizens, many representing community groups and constituencies across the Philadelphia region, gathered at the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church for an Afternoon of Prayer, Education & Action (PEA) about Gun Violence. The event was organized by PEA to encourage sponsorship and support of One Hand Gun a Month legislation by members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The issue of gun violence, as delineated by the PEA steering committee, "is complex and involves many factors, such as family splintering, lack of neighborhood safety, economic disadvantage, educational problems, mental illness, and political gridlock". PEA recognizes that these problems require ongoing and coordinated attention from a variety of resources in the community. The committee is convinced, however, that "through legislation designed to prevent easy purchase of large numbers of handguns, we can reduce illegal gun traffic and the outrageous number of guns in the streets of our communities... Legislators need to know that we care about the killing, that we support them in the enactment of this legislation, and that we expect them to take this first step in reducing the number of deaths from handguns in our area."
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