Equal Justice - Following the Dream

JSPAN Newsletter - January 14, 2011

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue: Celebrating Tu B’Shvat
Newsletter: January 14, 2011
Equal Justice - Following the Dream

A note from Brian Gralnick, JSPAN President:

The Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) and Cheltenham Area Branch NAACP are sponsoring "Equal Justice - Following the Dream" an MLK program with Major Neill Franklin (ret.), Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, who will talk about race, the criminal justice system and the drug war. This is a challenge that Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, wrote, “For every century there is a crisis in our democracy, the response to which defines how future generations view those who were alive at the time. In the 18th century it was the transatlantic slave trade, in the 19th century it was slavery, in the 20th century it was Jim Crow. Today it is mass incarceration...”

It's an issue with great significance to the Commonwealth. The January 3rd Philadelphia Daily News editorial read: "Last year, the state increased spending on prisons by $137 million, pushing the total to about $2 billion. That's about 7 percent of the state budget, which is way too much. How do we get here? According to a 2008 report from the Pew Research Center, Pennsylvania has the second-longest prison sentences in the country. Many of these are mandatory minimums for minor drug crimes, which has contributed to the prison population growing by 280 percent in about 30 years. We hope that Corbett - who has been a tough-talking prosecutor for most of his career - can use his law-enforcement credentials to bring some common sense to the so-called "War on Drugs" and prioritize alternatives to incarceration."

The program is free and will be held at Congregation Adath Jeshurun, at 7:15pm, the corner of Old York Road/611 and Ashborne Road in Elkins Park. Everyone is welcome.

I look forward to seeing you there.


Three Perspectives on the Tragedy in Tucson
The national dialog on the shooting spree in Tucson that left 6 dead and 20 wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords continues unabated. Below are three perspectives on the shootings. – Ed.

Sweet Home Arizona
New York Times - January 10, 2011

I SPENT early Saturday morning writing a short story set in Tucson. I’ve lived here for a decade, but it’s only recently that I’ve felt I can claim the place as a subject. The impetus for writing about it hasn’t been love so much as anxiety, a sense that it’s in danger somehow — on many fronts.

That feeling of danger hit hard when I slouched out of my office to get another cup of coffee and my husband, mid-chat, looked up from his computer to tell me Representative Gabrielle Giffords had been shot, as had several other people. At a Safeway, of all places.


[read more]

Threats and Tools of Violence
By Leonard Fein
Forward – January 09, 2011

Even as the commiseration is expressed, the prayers for the dead and the wounded accomplished, the mind turns to the context. “I’m only surprised this doesn’t happen more often, with the crazy irrational political climate we have right now,” writes a commenter on The New York Times website. Others remind us that during the fall election campaign, Sarah Palin posted a controversial map on her Facebook page depicting spots where Democrats who had endorsed health care reform were running for re-election; those were noted by crosshairs symbols like those seen through the scope of a gun — and Gabby Giffords’s district was among those on Palin’s map.


[read more]

America, armed and dangerous
By Richard Cohen
Op-Ed Columnist
Washington Post – January 11, 2011

I had a teacher in college who used to ask, Who discovered America? He would offer some choices. They were Amerigo Vespucci, Christopher Columbus or the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. The answer he wanted was the three ships with which eventually someone would have discovered the New World and without which everyone would have remained in Spain. It is no different with the tragedy in Tucson. Hate speech and madness were part of the mix, but it was the gun and our insane gun laws that resulted in six deaths.


[read more]



Tu B’Shvat: A Social Justice Perspective
Tu B'Shvat, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, is the Jewish holiday celebrating the gift of trees. This year it arrives on January 20.

Modern tradition tells us to plant a tree to mark this day. An older tradition tells us to eat fruit from a tree, and an even older tradition is to hold a seder and drink four cups of wine on this day.

In our times, we think of Keren Kayemet, the omnipresent little blue charity boxes to collect money for the forestation of Israel, a program that predated by decades the popularization of efforts to rebuild some of our great forest domestically. The large forest fires in Israel this winter and in California in the fall have renewed interest in Keren Kayemet in all its versions. Possibly more to the point, these events point toward improving our ability to prevent and fight forest fires there and here. – Ed.

Tu B’Shvat: A Social Justice Perspective
Going Back to the Basics
Naomi Abelson

The overarching message from today’s nouveau food movements seems to be: eat what’s good for you and good for the earth. But, how “new” is this message, really? Is it innovative, modern and edgy? Or, is it simply reverting back to the basics – to the concepts of environmental stewardship and ethical eating that has always been prevalent in our Jewish tradition?

We will soon celebrate the holiday of Tu BiSh’vat (January 19-20, 2011). What began as a minor agriculture holiday to honor the beginning of the spring planting season has today grown into a Jewish Earth Day: we give thanks for the beauty of creation and acknowledge our responsibility to care for the earth.


[read more]


More Jews Mean a More Liberal Community
Article By J.J. Goldberg

Published December 29, 2010, issue of January 07, 2011 of the Forward.

Well, the news is out. If you haven’t heard yet, you’ll want to be sitting down for this. A brand-new Jewish population study has just come out, courtesy of Brandeis University. Who couldn’t use another Jewish population study?

And get this: The study concludes, as the Forward reported last week, that there are more Jews in America than most of us had thought. A cool million more. Moreover, the researchers tell us, Jews in America are not declining in number, as is widely supposed. In fact, if the new study is correct, the Jewish population is actually growing at a healthy rate.


[read more]

To read the Brandeis Population Study, click here.


Arlen Specter Speaks about Changes in the Senate during his Long and Distinguished Career
By Ted Mann, Esq., Member of the JSPAN Board

On December 21, outgoing Senator Arlen Specter made what he called his “closing argument” to a jury of his colleagues and the American people. Among other recommendations he called on the next Congress to stop the Supreme Court from further eroding the constitutional mandate of separation of powers. “The Supreme Court has been eating Congress’s lunch,” he said. In their confirmation hearings Justices Roberts and Alito committed under oath to respect congressional fact finding and precedents. “Chief Justice Roberts”, he argued, “promised to just call balls and strikes.” But “then he moved the bases” when he and Justice Alito (in the Citizens United decision) ignored a massive Congressional record as well as recent precedent by permitting corporations and unions to secretly pay for political advertising, thereby undermining the democratic “one person, one vote” principle.

After conceding that Congress is limited in what it can do because judicial independence is the foundation of the rule of law, he invoked the words of Justice Brandeis (“sunlight is the best disinfectant”) in urging the incoming Congress to require Supreme Court proceedings to be televised and thus provide some transparency to inform the public about what the Court is doing.

To view Senator Specter's full speech, click here.


Rift in Arizona as Latino Class Is Found Illegal
Are Latino students being unfairly singled out in a highly charged anti-immigration environment? - Ed.

Rift in Arizona as Latino Class Is Found Illegal
New York Times – January 7, 2011

TUCSON — The class began with a Mayan-inspired chant and a vigorous round of coordinated hand clapping. The classroom walls featured protest signs, including one that said “United Together in La Lucha!” — the struggle. Although open to any student at Tucson High Magnet School, nearly all of those attending Curtis Acosta’s Latino literature class on a recent morning were Mexican-American.

For all of that and more, Mr. Acosta’s class and others in the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican-American program have been declared illegal by the State of Arizona — even while similar programs for black, Asian and American Indian students have been left untouched.


[read more]


Why Anti-Semitism Is Growing in Germany
Why Anti-Semitism Is Growing in Germany
By Donald Snyder
Forward - December 31, 2010

BERLIN — A group of Muslim teenagers in Hanover attack an Israeli dance troupe, reportedly yelling “Juden raus” as they hurl stones at them.

German leftists march in Berlin with Muslims to protest the 2008–2009 Gaza military conflict. “Death to the Jews!” the marchers chant.

At a soccer game between teams from the St. Pauli section of Hamburg and the city of Chemnitz in eastern Germany, the Chemnitz fans shout “Sieg heil” and wave imitation Nazi flags. “We’re going to build a subway from St. Pauli to Auschwitz,R21; some chant — not because the St. Pauli team is Jewish, but simply as a way of expressing contempt through casual use of Holocaust imagery.

This is happening in a country that has confronted its Nazi past, where Holocaust education has long been mandatory and such expressions of anti-Semitism are illegal. Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany.


[read more]


Israeli court gives green light to "modesty buses"
Since 1997, public buses in religious areas of Israel have required women to enter at the rear while men enter at the front door. The Supreme Court of Israel has now ruled on this practice, invoking the efforts of Rosa Parks for the principle of equality, yet leaving many dissatisfied. – Ed.

Israeli court gives green light to "modesty buses"
Reuters, Thu Jan 6, 2011

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel's Supreme Court gave the green light on Thursday for the continued operation of gender-segregated "modesty buses" serving ultra-Orthodox Jews.

But the court, ruling in response to petitions by liberal Jewish groups opposed to back-of-the-bus seating for women, said the practice was acceptable only if female passengers were not coerced into sitting separately from men.


[read more]


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