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Past Events | Jewish Social Policy Action Network

Past Events

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JSPAN Awarded 2011 Social Justice Award by Kol Ami

On April 1 Congregation Kol Ami in Elkins Park, PA awarded JSPAN its 2011 Social Justice Award in recognition of JSPAN’s work in advancing social justice and in combining its commitment to social justice with education and action.  JSPAN joins a distinguished list of honored recipients of the Kol Ami Social Justice Award.  Brian Gralnick, JSPAN’s President, accepted the award at Erev Shabbat services at the synagogue and thanked Rabbi Elliot Holin and the congregation for honoring JSPAN and its work.  The award, a Torah scroll in lucite, also includes a cash grant.

Remember the Triangle Fire: The One Hundredth Anniversary

On Thursday, March 24, JSPAN co-sponsored an event at the National Museum of American Jewish History to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the Triangle factory fire. It was a full house in the Dell Theatre at the museum, also an event co-sponsor, along with the Jewish Labor Committee and the Philadelphia Council of the AFL-CIO, and a great evening for learning and being inspired by this watershed event in the history of the labor movement and social reform.

2009 JSPAN Social Justice Award to Todd Bernstein

Join us to Honor Sheila and Dan Segal

JSPAN will present its Social Justice Award on Tuesday, December 9, 2008 to community activists Sheila and Dan Segal. The award presentation and reception will take place at the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia, from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Peter Edelman will speak on "Life after Bush: Social Justice in the New Administration." Dan is Chairman of the Litigation Department at Hangley Aronchick Segal and Pudlin. After clerking for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, he taught First Amendment and Constitutional Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

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.

Join us at the 2007 Social Justice Award

JSPAN is proud to announce that Adelaide Ferguson and Alan Lerner, two area leaders with outstanding achievements in human rights, education and social justice, will receive the JSPAN Social Justice Award in a reception at the Pyramid Club early Wednesday evening, November 14, 2007.

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.

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.

See Representative Barney Frank at the JSPAN Annual Meeting

Marshall Dayan Presents The Jewish Perspective on the Death Penalty

On Wednesday evening, April 11th, at Congregation Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley, and again on Thursday evening, April 12th, at the Germantown Jewish Centre, JSPAN policy expert Marshall L. Dayan spoke about the Jewish Perspective on the Death Penalty. Dayan, State Strategies Coordinator for the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, focused the first program on a discussion of Jewish perspectives derived from traditional Jewish teaching. Noting that many advocates of the death penalty rely on biblical text, Dayan cautioned against reading that text out of context and without the benefit of generations of scholarly interpretation. For example, the "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" language often cited in support of the death penalty is taken from text relating to monetary compensation for damages, not capital punishment for criminal conduct. Moreover, in order for a murder to qualify for capital punishment under traditional Jewish law, it must have been committed intentionally. Thus, the "felony-murder rule" that accounts for a substantial percentage of the capital cases in the United States today (and a disproportionate percentage of the capital cases involving minorities) would not qualify as a capital offense under traditional Jewish law. A "felony-murder" is a murder committed in the course of committing another felony. For example, if someone took a gun and robbed a bank, that would be armed robbery, a felony (major crime). If during the course of that armed robbery someone died, that would constitute felony-murder, a capital offense. That would be true even in the case of a bystander who died suddenly from a heart attack induced by the shock and stress of the robbery, where the robber clearly did not intend to kill the victim. Dayan observed that under Jewish law there were strict procedural requirements that applied to capital cases, and that under rabbinic tradition there was a heightened effort to avoid imposing a sentence of death. Thus, at least two eyewitnesses to the crime were required. Each eyewitness had to inform the person about to commit the criminal act that doing so would result in his being condemned to die, and the person about to commit the crime had to respond that he understood the consequences of his actions and committed the crime anyway. Circumstantial evidence, upon which so many cases today are decided, was not admissible evidence under traditional Jewish law. So, where a witness saw one man run into a building and saw another man running after the first man with a knife and following him into the building, and then saw the second man run out of the building with blood on his knife, and then saw the first man lying dead and bleeding in the building, that witness could not testify at all because he did not see the man with the knife stab the man who was dead.
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