Chanukah Issue

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Jewish Social Policy Action Network
Chanukah Issue
Newsletter: December 14, 2011
Congress' Unfinished Business: Extend Unemployment Benefits
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
December 8, 2011

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released unemployment data last week for the month of November. They reported that last month, unemployment decreased to 8.6%. While this is the first time in three years that the unemployment rate has fallen below 9%, some economists are skeptical that this is in fact positive news. Further analysis of the report shows that a significant number of people have completely given up looking for work. According to the New York Times, "Part of the reason the jobless rate feels so low was that 315,000 unemployed workers simply stopped applying for jobs."

There remain 13.3 million Americans who are still looking for work but continue to find themselves unemployed. For this group, federal unemployment benefits are a vital resource. Over the past few months, it has become abundantly clear that many families continue to suffer during this stagnant economy. While many would love to find steady work, there is only one open job for every 4.5 unemployed workers. Safety net programs like unemployment insurance are a lifeline for the families of millions of Americans struggling to find a job.


[read more]



JSPAN Program on War Crimes Trials
JSPAN, Gratz College and the Holocaust Museum held a very successful program on December 6 entitled "Nuremberg: a Lesson for Our Times." The program began with Prof. Andrew Strauss of Widener Law School lecturing on the slow historical development, from the Nuremberg war crimes trials to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, of the principle of international enforcement against perpetrators of crimes against humanity. The American documentary propaganda film of the Nuremberg war crimes trials, created in 1946 for consumption by the German public, originally directed by Bud Schulberg and recently unearthed and restored by his niece Sandra Schulberg, was introduced by Sandra who provided insights into the filming and subsequent suppression of the work. A large turnout of 185 included lawyers seeking CLE credits, Holocaust educators seeking continuing education credits, and the public. - Ed


GOP-made Congressional Map Squeaks Past Pa. Senate
JSPAN has spoken and held programs on the evils of the gerrymander, by which legislators pick the constituents they like instead of the other way around - constituents in neutrally drawn election districts picking their legislators on election day, through the ballot box. New Pennsylvania Congressional districts have been voted by the State Senate and now go to the House and Governor for further action. This is your opportunity to tell your leaders what you want! - Ed.

Associated Press Wire item on WJACTV.COM

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A new proposed map of U.S. House districts that shovels Pennsylvania's Democratic-leaning voters out of swing districts and into districts where they are less likely to defeat a Republican incumbent narrowly won approval in the state Senate on Wednesday night.

The Republican-drawn map was blasted by Democrats as drawn in secret and carving up communities simply to shore up the re-election chances of the state's 12 Republican congressmen. Republicans defended the process as more transparent than in previous decades, and called the map a legal and constitutional product.

"Is it perfect? No," said Senate State Government Committee Chairman Charles McIlhinney, R-Bucks. "But it is a solid, constitutional map, and we tried to do the best we can in as an open and honest way as we could. I tried to listen to everyone. I tried to take advice from as many people as I could, and in the end you can't take politics completely out of politics."


[read more]

And then there are the new legislative districts for the State Senate and House. - Ed.


Political Power-Play in Harrisburg
Philadelphia Jewish Voice
December 5, 2011
Barry Kauffman, Common Cause PA

The biggest political power-play of the decade is unfolding right now in Harrisburg - and it is, perhaps, the most self-serving and least transparent process of state government. It is known as reapportionment or redistricting.

Every ten years, following the census, each state is required to reconfigure the lines for its congressional and legislative districts, to ensure that everyone has equal representation. For its legislative districts, Pennsylvania establishes a five-person Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC), comprised of the top Republicans and Democrats in the state House and Senate, plus a fifth person who serves as chairman. The Pennsylvania State Constitution directs the LRC to ensure that each district has approximately the same number of residents, is compact and contiguous, and keeps counties, cities, towns, boroughs, townships and wards intact unless a split is "absolutely necessary". This is supposed to lead to elections that are fair and competitive.


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Guantanamo Forever?
New York Times Op-Ed, December 12, 2011
By Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar

In his inaugural address, President Obama called on us to "reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." We agree. Now, to protect both, he must veto the National Defense Authorization Act that Congress is expected to pass this week.

This budget bill - which can be vetoed without cutting financing for our troops - is both misguided and unnecessary: the president already has the power and flexibility to effectively fight terrorism.

One provision would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past. Some claim that this provision would merely codify existing practice. Current law empowers the military to detain people caught on the battlefield, but this provision would expand the battlefield to include the United States - and hand Osama bin Laden an unearned victory long after his well-earned demise.


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In Tough Times, Relying on the Jewish Community for Help
Jewish Telegraph Agency
December 12, 2011
By Penny Schwartz

BOSTON (JTA) -- In August, in the heat of the summer, a Boston-area mother of three began to worry about how she would pay for Chanukah gifts. Across the country in San Francisco, a 33-year-old Russian-born mother of six said that thinking about this Chanukah made her cry.

Both women -- Lauren of Boston and Lilya of San Francisco (they asked that their last names not be used) -- are struggling in a down economy to provide for their families. Still, they are hopeful that with support of Jewish organizations, they will find meaningful ways to celebrate the eight-day Festival of Lights. As American Jews prepare to celebrate Chanukah, which this year begins on the evening of Dec. 20, Jewish social service agencies across the country are gearing up to help the growing number of needy American families.


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Our Own 1%
Editorial, Jewish Daily Forward
December 16, 2011

Compensation survey of Jewish communal leadership finds continuing inequality

Why does inequality rankle us so? Why has it undergirded the protests and occupations of so many frustrated Americans? The reasons were well stated in President Obama's recent speech in Kansas: Stubborn inequality stifles hope, perverts our political process and seems fundamentally unfair, a violation of the core American precept that only your ability and work ethic stand in the way of success, not a system that may be stacked against you from the start. After World War II, the president reminded us, a child born in poverty had a 50/50 chance of entering the middle class as an adult. If current trends continue, only one in three children born today will have that opportunity.

The Forward's annual survey of leadership and compensation in the Jewish nonprofit world, published today, is a service to our readers, giving them information they can use to hold accountable the communal organizations they serve, rely on and support. It also is a way to shine a light on the persistent inequality that exists in too many of these national organizations - an inequality that, also, stifles hope, perverts our politics and should strike us as fundamentally unfair.


[read more]

For additional detail on the survey go to "Gender Equality Elusive in Salary Survey, Men Lead Most Jewish Groups and Earn More Than Women" by Jane Eisner and Maia Efrem, at


Have a Very Alimentary Chanukah
Union for Reform Judaism
By Tina Wasserman

Many years ago I created a birthday cake for my son that covered an entire table with cupcakes, licorice and cookies transforming the table's surface into a giant Pac- Man grid. I used a contemporary cultural icon to create a centerpiece for his birthday celebration.

Jewish cooks, for millennia, found their creative stimulus in themes from the Bible, regional folklore, and daily life. The Chanukah story of the rededication of the Temple and the single vial of oil lasting eight days was the impetus for the creation of the potato pancake, probably in the early 17th century, when potatoes were first grown in Europe. In reality, the story wasn't solely responsible for this culinary treasure. More than likely, seasonal activity created the ubiquitous crispy potato latke. After three months of carefully over-feeding the geese, (historically raising geese was a Jewish occupation) Jews would slaughter the birds in early December to use their feathers and down for warmth. Their meat was cooked and preserved in its own fat as a confit to be eaten during the long winter, and the copious amounts of fat were rendered to produce the cooking oil that would be used for most of the year. With all that freshly rendered fat, it was easy for the European Jew to round up a few potatoes and an onion and create a poor man's delicacy that symbolized the story of Chanukah.

[read more]


The Word on New Chanukah Books for Kids
Jewish Telegraph Agency
December 12, 2011
By Penny Schwartz

BOSTON (JTA) -- Judah Maccabee, meet the Golem of Prague. And Rebecca Rubin, Engineer Ari, and Nathan and Jacob, two brothers who are part of a modern American Jewish family.

They are among the characters who take center stage in this year's crop of new children's books for Chanukah, the eight-day Festival of Lights that begins this year at sundown Dec. 20. The lively mix includes the recent release of an e-book version of a popular chapter book and a dazzling work of design by a renowned paper artist.


[read more]


What's a Jew to do on Christmas Eve
(Here is a selection of promising fun possibilities, all hot off the web, all interesting, but none vetted by us. If you go and are pleased, let us know for next year.)

Temple Beth Zion - Beth Israel suggests their annual event, an evening of music and moo shu titled KLEZMAS EVE AND CANTONESE, Kosher Chinese Dinner and Klezmer Concert! The Cantonese banquet is provided by Barclay Caterers. The joyful sounds of klezmer are provided by the Ken Ulansey Ensemble. Prices and additional information may be obtained Reservations for the dinner are required by December 14.

The Gershman Y offers MOO SHU JEW Show featuring comedians and a multi-course Chinese meal (not Kosher but vegetarian options are available). The event will be held at Joy Tsin Lau Resturant, 1016 Race Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107. Reserve by calling 215-592-5228.

Singles ages 21 to 45 can travel to "The Ball 2011" in New York City, billed as the Nation's Biggest Jewish Singles Event. The start time is 10 pm at The Gallery, 371 West 16th St, New York. More information and reservations at or (212)-727-0212.

Matisyahu offers a concert of Jewish reggae at the Theatre of the Living Arts, 334 South Street, Philadelphia at 7 pm. Tickets may be purchased on line at

But if you miss all those events, try "Latkes, Laughter, and Lo Mein" on Sunday morning in Cherry Hill, New Jersey at the Katz JCC. Kosher Chinese breakfast, Chanukah Latkes, and comedy. More information at and-Laughter-16663

Have a happy Chanukah!


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