Arlene Fickler, Esq. Receives Sixth Annual Social Justice Awa

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
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Newsletter: November 19, 2010
Arlene Fickler, Esq. Receives Sixth Annual Social Justice Award
by Lynn Zeitlin and Ken Myers

In a ceremony at the Independence Visitors Center, JSPAN presented its sixth annual Social Justice Award to Arlene Fickler, Esq. in recognition of her contributions to social justice, to the Jewish community and to the law.

Alan P. Solow, Esq., Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, came from his home in Chicago to give the keynote address, “Is American Jewish Leadership Out of Touch With Its Constituents?” Solow pointed to the number and wide range of Jewish institutions that reach out to every part of the community, organizations such as JSPAN, the JCCs and synagogues, all of which provide expression to the broadest range of individuals and views. Solow recalled our history in America, which ranged from a powerless immigrant society living in tightly knit enclaves resembling shtetls, to modern times where Jews hold positions of prominence in every imaginable field, live everywhere, and are welcome in institutions from which Jews were excluded mere decades ago. This tremendous transition from weakness to power is no accident, Solow said, but rather, due to our creativity, and the constant evolution of Jews and Jewish institutions that continually adapt to change.

Solow states that we need to deal with changing paradigms and find ways to reach young people. The self-image of American Jews changed dramatically for the better with the creation of the State of Israel and again with the triumph in the ’67 War. The challenge is to apply the same rules of our tradition when we are “at the top of our game” as we did when we lacked power and prestige.

Jeffrey Pasek, Chairman of the JSPAN Board, presented the Social Justice Award to Arlene, noting her academic achievements at the University of Pennsylvania and its law school, and her communal and personal achievements since then.

Accepting the award, Arlene noted that the new National Museum of American Jewish History a block away expresses the theme “Only in America” that represents her life story. Although their means were simple, Arlene’s parents and grandparents always supported the needs of the community. She recalled the influence of her mentors Leo Levin, Phil Shiekman, Ralph Snyder, and Bernie Segal, founder of the Schnader Harrison firm where she started her legal practice career. Her guiding principles, formed by her upbringing and training, are to improve the judicial system, to offer her services pro bono to worthy causes, and to use her analytical skills to improve society. Arlene resisted being honored because, she said, there should be no reward for doing mitzvot – that which we are commanded by our tradition to do – to pursue justice and improve the world.

Arlene took a moment to remember the late Alan Lerner, teacher, social activist and past recipient of the Social Justice Award.

As the formal program ended, the very large audience presented Arlene with a standing ovation.









Congratulations to Rabbi David Straus...
... on his election to the Chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Federation. Rabbi Straus, spiritual leader of Mail Line Reform Temple, is a member of the JSPAN Board and a contributor to our newsletter from time to time.


Take Action Against Childhood Hunger
BACKGROUND: When Congress adjourned prior to the mid-term elections, one of the most popular, bi-partisan bills was left on the table: The Child Nutrition Reauthorization (S. 3307). This critical legislation will provide nutritious meals for millions of America’s hungry children.

Today, one in four American children are either hungry or food insecure. These children do not receive the minimum amount of food to stay healthy, live a decent life, and have a chance to excel. Of the 19.4 million children receiving lunch assistance each school day, fewer than half receive breakfast assistance and just 11% access summer feeding programs. Compounding this problem, much of the food that children eat lacks nutritional quality. During the lame-duck session, Congress has the opportunity to ensure the continuity of these critical programs that ameliorate the problem of childhood hunger, expand their reach to enable greater numbers of qualifying families to receive food assistance, and enhance services so that more of the growing hunger and nutrition needs are met

Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate of any major city, with one out of four people living in poverty. One-third of that population is under the age of 18. More than 900,000 residents of the Delaware Valley at risk for chronic malnutrition and hunger.

TAKE ACTION: Please call or email your Member of Congress today and tell him/her to pass the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act now, before the next Congress is seated.

Congressman Bob Brady (1st District)

Congressman Charles Dent (15th District)

Congressman Chaka Fattah (2nd District)

Congressman Jim Gerlach (6th District)

Congressman Patrick Murphy (8th District)

Congressman Joe Pitts (16th District)

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (13th District)

Congressman Joe Sestak (7th District)













California Prop 19: Good for the Jews?
In the days leading to Election Day, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on Jewish involvement in the campaign for California’s Prop 19, an initiative to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. They interviewed Jews leading the campaign such as colorful marijuana reform advocate Ed Rosenthal and drug policy reformer Ethan Nadelmann, son of New York Rabbi Ludwig Nadelmann and keynote for JSPAN's 2009 Annual Meeting. Although the intitative was defeated by 8 points, advocates indicate that similar campaigns may appear on ballots in 2012 and Jews will likely be leading the charge.

To read the JTA's article "Plenty of Jews on board with California's bid to legalize marijuana, click here.

In other drug policy news, Medical Marijuana Likely Coming Soon to Israeli Pharmacies.




JALSA Hosts "Move Your Money Action"
Two years ago, this Wednesday, on November 17, 2008, the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) injected $33 billion of taxpayer money to rescue big banks like Bank of America, bringing the total payout up to that date to $158.56 billion.

The "bailout" was supposed to help end the tight credit crunch suffocating small businesses and individuals, but in the end many banks continued to make billions in profits from unfair practices, including usurious interest rates, did not use those funds to help the general economy improve, and continued to ignore state interest rate caps.

This week, the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization will line up at Bank of America to tell the banks, "We're bailing ourselves out" by moving our money out of those banks that continue to charge usurious interest. Individuals and congregations will go into the bank to close over 100 bank accounts and tell the bank they will continue to close accounts until banks agree to respect the local Massachusetts interest rate cap of 18%.





No Holds Barred: Non-Jews as the saviors of Judaism
By SHMULEY BOTEACH Jerusalem Post 11-15-10

Judaism for Jews is too narrow, too particular to really inspire. The vast majority of the world's Jews want to live mainstream and fully integrated lives. But every form of Jewish outreach - from Reform to Orthodox - is designed to bring them back to the Jewish community. News alert. They left 200 years ago during the great emancipation and they aren't coming back.

There is, therefore, only one solution: Judaism for non- Jews. A global movement to disseminate Jewish values and spirituality to all Earth's inhabitants, making no distinction between Jew and gentile.

Two thousand years ago a still mysterious man named Saul of Tarsus saw that the ideas and values behind Judaism were so breathtaking that they could change the world, if only they could be stripped of their ritual demands and be mixed with a human deity who was more accessible than Judaism's invisible God. ...


[read more]






Rabbi David Saperstein Interprets the Election Results
by Ken Myers

Last week JCRC brought Rabbi David Saperstein to Philadelphia to receive its Jules Cohen Memorial Award.

Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, joins those commentators who choose to interpret the ballot box results as a response to a very bad economy rather than an endorsement of Tea Party or other right wing positions. The Jewish vote, based on preliminary analyses, went about two-thirds to Democrats. In 2008 a much larger percentage of the Jewish vote did go to the Democrats. But Saperstein points out that the 2008 election was the departure, and finds the 2010 results fairly consistent with past norms.

Across the entire population, Saperstein notes that younger people are more likely to vote Democratic and older people Republican. In 2010 the younger voters failed to turn out at the polls, resulting in the election of Republicans and defeat of Democrats. Saperstein suggests that the Obama Administration failed to get across the amount of change that it has actually achieved in the last 22 months, while the Republicans delivered their message effectively and capitalized on the bad economy.

Rabbi Saperstein commented on the sad lack of civility in the election process. The tone of political campaigning has grown worse with each successive election.






Jews Remained Loyal Democrats in 2010
By David A. Harris, National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO

While final official exit polling has not been released yet for the 2010 elections, recent analysis from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) indicates that “there has been no real Jewish movement to the GOP,” and for good reason. Following the 2008 election, the Republican Party rushed to the fringes of America’s right-wing and recruited extremist candidates that did not represent Jewish values.

The Republican lineup in 2010 featured a collection of candidates who wanted to repeal healthcare reform and eliminate the 14th Amendment, the income tax, the Department of Education, Social Security, Medicare, and even the Civil Rights Act. Their platform also included the usual right-wing social issues that are well known non-starters for American Jews. These include smashing the separation of church and state (regardless of whether or not a candidate could identify its origins), restricting a woman’s right to choose, and demagogic fear mongering about gays and lesbians in the military (to the point where so-called Values Voter leaders took a swing at Israel over its allowance of gay and lesbian soldiers). One candidate from their “Young Guns” group was even a Nazi reenactor. As Election Day approached, the GOP’s candidate sideshow, policy platform, and rhetorical excesses – including frequent invocations of the Holocaust -- made it clear that the Republicans could not be trusted to fight for Jewish values.

Sensing this, certain right-wing groups, such as the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), deliberately attempted to make support for Israel a partisan wedge issue. These groups purposefully besmirched the strong pro-Israel records of several mainstream Democrats including Representative Joe Sestak. It should be noted that Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren has expressed deep concern over attempts to make Israel a partisan wedge issue.

But despite the deplorable right-wing partisan efforts to wrongfully besmirch Sestak and other Democrats on Israel, the vast majority of Pennsylvania’s Jews understood that the former Navy Admiral had a decades-long record of substantive support for Israel. Once Pennsylvania’s Jews realized that the attacks against Sestak were baseless, they overwhelmingly voted for the candidate that they knew would fight for their interests.

Although final exit poll data has yet to be released, it is clear from both the J-Street and RJC polls that Jews voted overwhelmingly for Sestak. The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent even noted in two separate stories that Jews played only a small role in Pat Toomey’s victory and that Democrats were still “favored by local voters.”

Before the election, Gallup noted that American Jews are among President Barack Obama’s most ardent supporters. Ignoring this, RJC did the same thing they do every election: they crowed some variation of “this is the year that American Jews will cast their ballots for the Republican Party,” and began smearing with impunity. Yet in 2010, as in so many previous federal election cycles, American Jews once again voted overwhelmingly Democratic.  








Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: Joan Nathan shares her journey for Jewish Cooking in France
by Brian Gralnick, JSPAN President and Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) member and certified judge.

Last weekend, as part of the First Person Festival (, an audience diverse in age, gender and ethnicity noshed on delicacies from Agran Moroccan Cuisine, Hershel’s East Side Deli and Zahav while listening to food anthropologist Joan Nathan discuss her new book, “Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France.” The discussion, moderated by Philadelphia Inquirer food writer Diana Marder, moved from the first appearance of Jews in France (coinciding with the travels of the Romans) to the Holocaust and today and times in between.

Marder noted that Nathan’s recent work was her most memoir-like of cook books with interviews of chefs and families about the history of their recipes and details the journey of non-native fruits and spices to France. Nathan commented that her fluency in French broke down barriers with chefs and gave her a unique advantage for her research. (Her degree from the University of Michigan in French literature probably didn’t hurt either.) After all, France has the third largest Jewish population in the world.

Nathan shared stories of her time at the Kennedy School of Government and her many trips to France starting as a teenager. Her discussion was part food, but also part history of Jews in France as recipes needed their proper context. For example, the Jewish Apple, also known as eggplant, was native to India and it was dependent on Jewish merchants traveling aboard and bringing back its seeds. Who else would trace the history of kugel which likely started with left over, some eggs, pears, plums and water?

She writes about many families that hide their Jewish identity from their children and grandchildren and the difficultly younger generations faced when inquiring about recipes. Nathan visited villages that still today preserved the public ovens, a communal spot where recipes were shared, melded and blended.

Nathan’s new book recently won a star review from Publishers Weekly and was pick of the week. You can read more about her new book and read a few recipes on at Tablet byclicking here.







A Special Thanks to Ruth Laibson, Editor Emeritus
by Ira Goldberg, publisher of the JSPAN newsletter

For four years I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Ruth Laibson on our JSPAN newsletter. Every other Wednesday, I could count on coming home from work to find my inbox with at least twenty emails, almost all from Ruth as she diligently worked to ensure a quality newsletter. As an editor, she was tireless in her efforts to ensure the content was always on time, interesting and most importantly grammatically correct. As soon as I would get the all-clear from her that the newsletter was ready to go out, my wife and I would take bets on the over-under on how soon Ruth would call back finding something else that we needed to change. She was a perfectionist and I can offer no higher compliment for someone working in her role.

Over the years, she spent countless hours, from multiple cities in multiple time zones, collecting, proof reading and editing the JSPAN Newsletter. Under her tenure JSPAN never missed an edition. We have often been complimented on the quality of the newsletter and Ruth was a major factor in making that happen. Through our bi- weekly phone conversations editing the newsletter, I made a dear friend in Ruth and because of that I would like to apologize to her husband Peter for the many nights I stole her away from him.

We are confident we will continue to bring you the same level of quality as we transition editors and welcome suggestions for submission which can be directed

On behalf of JSPAN, its Board of Directors and yes, even you the reader, a special thank you in order to our founding newsletter editor, Ruth Laibson.

Ruth, job well done!









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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
Randy Schulz
J. Sanford Schwartz
Daniel Segal
Burt Siegel
Marc Stier
Rabbi David Straus
Mike Weilbacher
Deborah Weinstein
Lynn Zeitlin
Jill Katz Zipin

Executive Director:
Lynn Gottlieb, Esq.

Kenneth Myers

Ira Goldberg






















The newsletter contains articles and links to articles that we think will be of interest to JSPAN members. They are included for informational purposes, but unless otherwise stated, they do not necessarily reflect official JSPAN policy