5771 - A Year of Hope

JSPAN Newsletter - September 17, 2010

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: September 17, 2010
Con Con: Yes or No - Lunch and Learn
by Ken Myers, JSPAN vice president and program chair

Con Con is in the news. Governor Rendell favors a Constitutional Convention for Pennsylvania, and so do gubernatorial candidates Onorato and Corbett and several newspaper editorial pages. But is it the answer to corruption in Harrisburg? High property taxes? Gerrymandered election districts? Judges chosen in political elections, not on merit? Or is it an opportunity for special interest groups to take control?

Hear ex-Gov. Dick Thornburgh, who attended the last convention in 1967-68, Judge James Gardner Colins (ret.), Rep. Kathy Manderino and Duquesne Law Prof. Bruce Ledewitz at a PBI Continuing Legal Education program on Tuesday morning, September 21, in Philadelphia. Register by calling (800) 247-4724 or on line at http://www.legalspan.com/pbi/catalog.asp?search=constitutional+convention.

Join the lunch program at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia following the CLE, with Thornburgh, Colins and Ledewitz in an informal discussion aimed at non-lawyers, at a partially subsidized cost of $15. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call (215) 635-2554 or (215) 635-2664.

Con Con needs careful thought, and this is the right panel of experts to provide it. Join discussions of proposals for a Constitutional Convention at these two events sponsored by JSPAN on Tuesday.



Ordinances to Restrict Immigrants Struck Down by Federal Appeals Court: A Victory for JSPAN!
On September 9, 2010 the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia upheld a lower-court ruling striking down ordinances adopted by the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, that banned illegal immigrants from renting housing or being employed there. The New York Times journalist Julia Preston reported on September 10 that the court ruling "is the broadest statement by the court to date on the vexing question of how much authority states and towns have to act on immigration matters that are normally the purview of the federal government."

In its ruling, the appeals court stated that "it is of course not our job to sit in judgment of whether state and local frustration about federal immigration is warranted. We are, however, required to intervene when states and localities directly undermine the federal objectives embodied in statutes enacted by Congress."

According to Ms. Preston, the Hazleton ordinances, which had been initially struck down by a federal district judge in July 2007, would "allow the city to suspend the business licenses of employers who knowingly hired illegal immigrants. Landlords who rented to immigrants without legal status could be accused of harboring, and their rental permits suspended." The appeals judges concluded that the law "creates ... a system under which employers might quite rationally choose to err on the side of discriminating against job applicants who they perceive to be foreign."

JSPAN had joined the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and 24 other civil rights and social justice organizations in filing an amicus brief on April 16, 2008 in support of the lower-court ruling. This latest ruling of the appeals court is a very heartening development for all those seeking justice for immigrants in this country!

To read "Court Rejects a City's Efforts to Restrict Immigrants" by Julia Preston in its entirety, click here.

To access the text of the amicus brief of which JSPAN was a signatory, click here.

To access the ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, click here.


Spending the New Year Alone in a New Land
Over the years, some of us have observed Jewish holidays in distant cities around the globe, when business or personal obligations have necessitated that we leave the comfort and familiarity of our families and houses of worship and travel abroad. The experiences are always interesting, often challenging, and sometimes even unsettling: will we find a synagogue in the city we are visiting? will there be a service? what will the service be like? will we be welcomed by the congregants?

Last September, Jennifer Conlin, The New York Times travel correspondent, her husband, Daniel, also a journalist, and their three children were on assignment in Cairo, and found themselves in Maadi, a suburb of Cairo, "meander(ing) down an unpaved, dusty road, no map in hand, a well-dressed American family searching for a synagogue in a Muslim country, trying to do something we had done annually, unthinkingly: attend services in celebration of the Jewish New Year." They wanted to locate the Biton synagogue, "built in 1934 by a famous area landscaper, Meyr Yehuda Biton, a prominent member of the then-thriving Jewish community in Egypt. ... This synagogue was once the scene of countless weddings, bar mitzvahs, and Hanukkah, Purim, Yom Kippur, Passover and Rosh Hashana observations until, of course, the Suez crisis in the late 1950s, when the majority of Jews were forced to leave. ... The number of Egyptian Jews had (now) dwindled to fewer than 100 in the entire country."

In the September 10, 2010 Fashion and Style section of The Times, Ms. Conlin describes what transpired for her family at the Biton synagogue on that first day of Rosh Hashana, 2010, and the sobering lesson they all experienced. She concludes: "What simply never occurred to Daniel and me - what never ever crossed our minds - was that in this city of 20 million people, we would be the only practicing Jewish family. On this Rosh Hashana, we learned we were."

To read "Spending the Jewish New Year Alone in a New Land" by Jennifer Conlin in its entirety, click here.  


Yom Kippur Mass Apology Form
Yom Kippur is a time of serious reflection on how we have conducted our lives in the year that has just passed, and an opportunity to draw upon our ethical and moral aspirations for the year that is ahead. But this season also affords us the opportunity to wonder how we can atone for our sins.

Being Jewish, our people always sustains itself, through difficult as well as good times, with a little humor. It is in that spirit that we include the following piece in this week's JSPAN newsletter. Comedians David Jelenko and Steve Hofstetter have devised alternate form letters for us that give us the chance to clean the slate of 5770 with family members, friends and, YES, everyone on Our Facebook Pages.

We thank the San Diego Jewish World for including this in its issue of September 14, 2010. Click here to access the form.


Child Nutrition Campaign Continues Down to the Wire!
On August 5th, just hours before adjourning for summer recess, the Senate passed its version of the child nutrition reauthorization bill, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (S.3307), by unanimous consent. This piece of legislation provides $4.5 billion in nutrition and access improvements to the 10-year reauthorization bill. However, in a last minute change, in order to pay for the bill, the Senate decided to cut future benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps).

The $2.2 billion in SNAP money would reduce SNAP benefits in future years, taking away some of the increase enacted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Hunger relief advocacy organizations across the nation were very disappointed to see that the Senate decided to pay for one important nutrition program by making cuts to another. In addition, though the Senate bill is a significant first step to final passage, it lacks funding for a number of important programs, especially programs that increase access and make it easier for low-income children to receive nutritious meals.

Earlier in the summer the House of Representatives' Education and Labor Committee passed its version of the child nutrition bill, the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act (H.R. 5504), in a bi-partisan vote. This bill has an estimated funding level of $8 billion over the next 10 years. It makes significant improvements and investments in nutrition and access programs, such as the summer feeding program, the school breakfast program, and the after school snack and supper program.

The House's version of the bill will make is easier for low-income children to receive nutritious meals within the school environment and during non-school times. It is therefore urgent that the House of Representatives identify funding and pass its version of the bill before the September 30th deadline, when the legislation will expire.

Members of Congress have now returned from recess. There are less than 2 weeks left for JSPAN members to take action before the September 30th deadline. Your help is needed in order to ensure that Congress passes a robust child nutrition bill that will help serve the 19.4 million children in America who currently receive free or subsidized meals, as well as the millions more who are eligible for these programs!

Call your Representatives to urge passage of H.R. 5504. Also remind them that no further cuts to SNAP should be made. Call toll-free 1-877-425-4810, to connect to your Representative.


Eavesdropping, Detention, Torture: Drawing the Line
Father and son. Lawyer and philosopher. Conservative and liberal. Charles Fried, Beneficial professor of law at Harvard University and Gregory Fried, professor of philosophy at Suffolk University, found themselves debating the deepest issues raised by the U. S. government's response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Their conversation has become a book, Because It Is Wrong: Torture, Privacy, and Presidential Power in the Age of Terror.

"Torture," they conclude, "is illegal because it is wrong" - always and absolutely. "Eavesdropping is wrong because it is illegal" and therefore (unlike torture) subject to controlled use along a spectrum of degrees, conditions, and restraints. Presidential power runs up against emergencies and events for which the language of prior laws, or legislative processes, may seem imperfect or inadequate for a time.

The Frieds explore how government leaders should act, and how they must subject themselves to review, and even censure, when they feel compelled to go beyond their oath to uphold the law. The September-October 2010 issue of Harvard Magazine included excerpts from the final chapter of the book. In "Learning Not to be Good," they apply law, philosophy, and history to make their argument - and to explain their unresolved differences - about what the nation should do in judging the government's actions and claims during the "war on terror."

To read excerpts from "Learning Not to be Good" by Charles and Gregory Fried, click here.


Not Since Nineveh: Artifacts from the Ancient Near East
On August 23, 2010, the Rare Book Department at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Parkway Central Library opened a new exhibition of rare cuneiform tablets. Running through January 21, 2011, "Not Since Nineveh: Artifacts from the Ancient Near East in the Free Library of Philadelphia, 3100-300 B.C.E." features relics from the Ancient Near East collected by Philadelphia philanthropist John Frederick Lewis in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Free Library's collection contains nearly 3,000 clay and stone tablets of all shapes and sizes, along with cylinder seals and their clay impressions. The exhibition is illustrated with maps and photographs of excavation sites and artifacts. This is the first time the Free Library has mounted an entire exhibition of its cuneiform tablet collection.

The Rare Book Department is open from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, with tours of the General Collections beginning daily at 11:00 a.m. For more information, call (215) 686-5416 or email "erefrbd@freelibrary.org."




The Battle for Israel
Daniel Sokatch is CEO of the New Israel Fund. In an op-ed in the August 31, 2010 issue of the JewishJournal.com, he states that "while all eyes are on the peace process, another, little-known process is unfolding within Israel, where a debate rages over the nature and definition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. It is, in other words, a battle for the soul of Israel, and its outcome is no less crucial to the future of the State of Israel than the results of the negotiations in Washington."

Mr. Sokatch identifies a number of developments across the nation which, in his estimation, are "penaliz(ing) civil society, curtail(ing) freedom of speech or dissent, or in some way diminish(ing) democratic freedom." This "ominous" trend is resulting in a "drift toward authoritarianism and McCarthyism in some sectors of Israeli society."

"The buzzword of this year, the great fear among Israelis, is the 'delegitimization' of Israel. ... In the international reaction to the flotilla, to the Goldstone Report and to the Gaza action, many Israelis see uncompromising hostility to the Jewish state itself, not to its actions or policies. Israel has real adversaries who deny its right to exist. But while it may be understandable, the indiscriminate rejection of all criticism is creating the very zero-sum game that many Israelis fear.

"But there is good news." Mr. Sokatch cites recent changes made by the Israel Defense Forces in its operational protocol, as well as encouraging statements by some government officials, all of which support the argument that the anti-democratic trend in Israeli society must be reversed. "Those who cherish the Israel envisioned by its founders are fighting back. ... Israel needs this kind of courage to confront both itself and its adversaries, because securing a vibrant and functioning Israeli democracy is as critical for Israel's future as is securing peace with its neighbors. ... Shutting down dissent and democracy will not keep Israel safe. A commitment to justice for all its citizens and to a fair and equitable solution of two states for two peoples, will."

To read "The battle for Israel" by Daniel Sokatch in its entirety, click here.


A New Netanyahu
M.J. Rosenberg is Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network. Previously, he was director of policy at Israel Policy Forum from 1998-2009. On September 2, 2010, writing in Political Correction, a project of Media Matters Action Network, Mr. Rosenberg stated that he was "trying hard to be optimistic about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that were kicked off at the White House on September 1st. ... My sole reason for optimism is that I cannot imagine that President Barack Obama would have initiated this effort if it was doomed to failure. Why bother?"

According to Mr. Rosenberg, Netanyahu is "more enthusiastic than Abbas, perhaps because he wants Obama to look more favorably on an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, should he decide to order one. ... Plus, he is certainly not averse to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that would end the conflict while allowing Israel to keep most of the territories. ... Abbas, for his part, probably won't accept anything less than the 22% of historic Palestine that is encompassed by Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He believes that conceding 78% of historic Palestine to Israel (i.e., Israel prior to 1967) in exchange for ending the conflict forever is a pretty good deal for both sides.

"President Obama is aware of all the(se) things. ... Nonetheless, he is investing his energy and his prestige in this effort. He must believe that it has a chance of success. Unfortunately, he cannot achieve an agreement without putting pressure on both sides, and particularly on Netanyahu, who, after all, holds all the cards (plus all the territory). ... In the end, we have to hope that Netanyahu has finally come to understand that the occupation poses an existential threat to Israel as a Jewish state. If Netanyahu has actually come around to that understanding (as Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert seemed to), it is possible - even probable - that progress will be made.

"Does Netanyahu want peace? The first sign will come on September 26th when he either will, or won't, say 'yes' to extending the partial settlement freeze. Either way, we'll have our answer. If he is serious about these negotiations, Obama will tell Netanyahu that 'no' is not an option."

To read "A New Netanyahu" by M. J. Rosenberg in its entirety, click here.


Support JSPAN

Please note: Because of the schedule of Jewish holidays, the next issue of this newsletter will be on October 8th.

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JSPAN Officers
Brian Gralnick

Kenneth Fox
Vice President

Judah Labovitz
Vice President

Ruth Laibson
Vice President

Kenneth Myers
Vice President

Stephen Applebaum

Stewart Weintraub
Secretary & General Counsel

Susan Myers
Policy Centers Chair


Jeffrey Pasek, Chair
Alex Urevick
Sheila Ballen
Susan Bolno
Adam Bonin
David S. Broida
Deanne Comer
Hon. Ruth Damsker
Marshall Dayan
William Epstein
Sarita Gocial
Paula Green
Margot Horwitz
Rhoda Indictor
Lazar Kleit
Rabbi Robert Layman
Richard I. Malkin
Theodore Mann
Mark Newman
Maureen Pelta
Adena Potok
Audrey Ann Ross
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Mike Weilbacher
Deborah Weinstein
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Executive Director:
Lynn Gottlieb, Esq.

Ruth Laibson

Ira Goldberg




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