Global Day of Jewish Learning

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Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:



Newsletter: November 5, 2010
Your Invitation Has Arrived...
Alan Solow, Chair of the Council of Presidents, to Speak at JSPAN Social Justice Award Reception for Arlene Fickler

Arlene Fickler will receive the 2010 JSPAN Social Justice Award on November 16. In her honor, Alan Solow, Chair of the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organziations, has agreed to give the keynote address.

Solow's topic - Is American Jewish Leadership Out of Touch with Its Constituents – goes to the heart of our future. Our communal organizations have been the envy of every constituency in America, but we must ask if they can maintain unity and leadership for the young and for future generations.

Arlene Fickler is a litigator and a leader in Bar programs central to the improvement of the law. She devotes great effort to building the Jewish community through distinguished service on the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and several of its constituent agencies. She chaired the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Philadelphia and has served on the boards of the Jewish Publishing Group, HIAS Immigration Services, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America, and Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel. She was the co-chairman of the organizing committee that brought 1,750 teenagers from nine countries to Philadelphia for the JCC's Maccabi Games in August 2001.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania cum laude and Penn Law School where she was Note Editor of the Law Review, Arlene advanced to partner at Schnader Harrison and then co-founded the law firm Hoyle, Fickler, Herschel & Mathes LLP. Her professional achievements over many years include service as the chair of the Federal Courts Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association, trustee of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation (the charitable arm of the Philadelphia Bar Association), Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, member of the American Law Institute, and a Barrister of the University of Pennsylvania American Inn of Court. She was the co-Reporter for the American College of Trial Lawyers Manual on Mass Torts published by Lexis-Nexis.

Fickler represented American Jewish Congress and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council in County of Allegheny v. ACLU, the United States Supreme Court case involving the display of a creche and a menorah on public property. She is a member of JSPAN’s Church State Committee, which monitors and participates in First Amendment and other federal and state civil rights cases.

In announcing her selection, JSPAN Chairman Jeff Pasek stated: “Arlene is honored for her achievements as an outstanding leadership woman in the community. We celebrate successful women in the law, and at the same time provide needed support for JSPAN’s unique domestic religious freedom and civil rights program.”

Fickler will receive the Social Justice Award at a reception on November 16, 2010 at 5:30 pm at the Visitor’s Center on Constitution Mall. For details and a reservation call or e-mail Lynn Gottlieb (610-527-5062 or

See you on November 16!










First Tally of Jews Elected and Rejected
Jewish incumbents winning re-election to the Senate include Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Barbara Boxer (D-California), Charles Schumer (D – NY), and Ron Wyden (D – Oregon).

The Jewish incumbent Senator defeated is Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin).

Incumbent Jewish Senators continuing in office are Ben Cardin (D-Md), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D- Minnesota), Herb Kohl (D – Wisconsin), Frank Lautenberg (D – NJ), Joe Lieberman (I – Connecticut), Carl Levin (D – Michigan) and Bernard Sanders n(I – Vermont).T

Jewish incumbents who lost in House races are John Adler (D-NJ), Alan Grauson (D – FL), Steve Kagen (D – WI) and Ron Klein (D- FL).

Jewish winners of House races include Gabrielle Giffords (D- Arizona)and David Cicilline (D – RI). Senate winner: Richard Blumenthal (D – CT)

With thanks to the Jewish Telegraph and the usual note: list incomplete! – Ed.







Global Day of Jewish Learning
Rabbi Adin Steinslatz is completing his Talmud translation this week. To mark the event Jews all around the world will come together in communities, homes, and online on Sunday for a day of Jewish learning. We will celebrate our shared heritage through events and programs of study of the Talmud. Rabbi Steinslatz will broadcast live from Jerusalem at 2:00 PM EST on We dedicate the following lessons in Jewish teaching to the celebration. - Ed.


When Is a Jew?
by Rabbi Elliot Holin

The critical question for us, as religious or spiritual non-traditional Jews, is "When is a Jew?" The "when" is important because expressing our "Jewish selves" must be more often than in response to crisis. When crisis occurs, denominational labels drop off. At those times we do not ask, "Are you Orthodox, or Reform, or Conservative, or Reconstructionist?" but rather, "What can I do?" In the absence of crisis, there are numerous ways to engage our "Jewish selves" on personal, frequent and meaningful levels.

Start with Shabbat, the day of rest. It is our weekly "stress reducer" and you don't have to go on eBay to get it! We read these words from the Torah on Yom Kippur morning: Kee karove ay'lecha ha'davar m'ode b'feecha oo'vil'vavcha la'ahsahto "It is very near you: in your mouth and in your heart, and you can do it!" Feel it, say it, do it! It's the Nike ad from Biblical times. You become Shabbat. You integrate it into your being. You allow for possibilities. Alright, so you drive on Shabbat, you go to a ballgame or a movie, you use the phone, you cook {or is it, microwave?} and yet part of that day - because you treat it differently from other days - you see yourself differently. You receive Shabbat as a gift. You slow things down and reacquaint yourself with what really matters: not calendars and deadlines, but people and lifelines. You disengage from much of what claims your time, mind and energy during the week. We often think of Shabbat as the day when one cannot do a lot of things, but instead of thinking of it as a day defined by limitations, think of it as a day filled with possibilities: what you might do differently, creatively and lovingly.


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Jewish Sources on the Provision of Health Care
by Rabbi Gail Labovitz

When one starts from a worldview in which God is active in the workings of the world, it is quite possible to understand illness and physical weaknesses as God’s judgment on the ailing person, so that any intervention is a challenge to the workings of God’s will. This viewpoint has been voiced by some Jewish thinkers, from the sages of the classical rabbinic tradition, through the great bible commentators of the medieval period, and beyond. In other contexts, and in numerous sources, however, saving a life is considered to be one of the highest commandments in Judaism, so much so that almost every other commandment can be violated to further this end. This quite different perspective – one that validates medical expertise and makes the practice of healing a religious obligation – has also been present in Jewish tradition from its earliest expressions.

Two verses in particular from the Torah serve as the core foundation for what has become the normative Jewish view on healing and access to healthcare. Exodus 21:19 discusses a case in which one person has injured another in an altercation. The Torah rules that the assailant must see to it that the victim receives necessary medical attention: ”he shall certainly heal him.” In context, the obvious meaning is that the assailant must pay the victim’s medical costs, but the rabbis derive additional meaning from the doubling of the verb in Hebrew. Thus we read in the Talmud, Berakhot 60a and Bava Kama 85a: “It was taught in the school of Rabbi Ishmael: ‘he shall certainly heal him’ – from this source, the healer is given permission to heal.” As Nachmanides noted in his 13th century work, Torat ha-Adam, “this is to say that it is not forbidden because of the concern that the doctor might inadvertently err; also, people should not say ‘the Holy One has struck (the ill person) and is the One to heal.’” Nachmanides continues, “it is a commandment to heal, and is in the category of saving a life.”


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Lifelong Learning Is a Jewish Imperative
by Rabbi Robert Layman

Shortly after my retirement in 2001, when I was searching for ways to spend my time productively, I learned that the University of Pennsylvania had established a program called Senior Associates which provided the senior population an opportunity to audit undergraduate courses on a limited basis. The fee, at the time, was nominal, so I enrolled in one of the most popular classes, a three-semester course in Modern History taught by Professor Jonathan Steinberg. The senior auditors vastly outnumbered the undergraduates, contrary to Penn's policy, but the authorities obviously looked the other way. What impressed me almost immediately was that the overwhelming number of senior associates were Jewish. In fact, one semester the class included four other retired Conservative rabbis (like me) and three former presidents of Har Zion Temple! Significantly, Dr. Steinberg often included the Jewish factor in his lectures.

I audited other classes for approximately another two years. The Senior Associates program proved to be too successful, so Penn priced it out of reach for me and many others. In the meantime, my wife Ruth was attending courses specifically designed for retirees at Temple's Center City campus. The program was called TARP but it was later changed to the Osher LIfelong Learning Institute (OLLI) because of a grant that the university had received. I joined my wife in this program and I eventually became a member of the volunteer faculty. Again, I noted that the student body was overwhelmingly Jewish and I geared my courses to that population. In the past, I have taught courses called The Emergence of Modern Judaism and Understanding Jewish Rituals and Observances. Both classes were very well attended. Presently, I am teaching a highly timely course called Jews and Muslims Then and Now. The room, which accommodates fifty people, is usually filled up fifteen minutes before the start of the session. With two or three exceptions, my impression is that all the students are Jewish.


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Enough Attack Ads! Let's Try Some Civility
Struck by the mean level of public discourse, recognizing that it reverberates within the Jewish community as well as the overall body politic, and observing that it is contrary to Jewish law and tradition, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) urges:

[W]e as a community and as individuals, must pledge to uphold the basic norms of civil discussion and debate at our public events. We do this not to stifle free expression of views, but rather to protect it.

We will discover civility in the guarding of our tongues and the rejection of false witness. We will find it wherever we show care for the dignity of every human being, even those with whom we may strongly disagree. We will find it by listening carefully when others speak, seeking to understand what is being said and trying to learn from it.

This pursuit has deep roots in Torah and in our community?s traditions. Our Sages saw the fruit of arguments that were conducted l?shem shamayim, ?for the sake of Heaven.? They fervently believed that great minds, engaged in earnest search and questioning, could find better and richer solutions to the problems they faced. They refrained from insisting on uniformity. They sought to preserve and thereby honor the views of the minority as well as the majority. They did so through their understanding of the great teaching of Eilu v?elu divrei Elokim chayim, ?both these words and those are the words of the living God.?

Read and sign JCPA's petition for civility at  






Where the Jews rank on the Philanthropy 400
The following article appeared on October 19, 2010 on the JTA website

NEW YORK (JTA) -- These are the Jewish organizations that made it to the Chronicle of Philanthropy's 400, with their ranking on the list, fund-raising totals for 2009 and percentage increase or decrease from 2008 to 2009:

  • 45. Jewish Federations of North America $320,252,000 (-19.6%)
  • 74. American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee $223,971,020 (-8.5%)
  • 117. UJA-Federation of New York $159,684,000 (-10.1%)
  • 135. Jewish Communal Fund (New York) $142,872,382 (-52.3%)
  • 147. JUF-Jewish Federations of Chicago $133,494,791 (-15.1%)
  • 176. Yeshiva University $111,124,401 (-39.2%)
  • 227. Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston $84,954,290 (-21.1%)
  • 243. Hadassah, the Women?s Zionist Organization of America $78,841,469 (-7.9%)
  • 244. Brandeis University (Waltham, Mass.) $78,172,000 (-12.6%)
  • 264. Birthright Israel Foundation $71,369,840 (+46.8%)
  • 269. American Friends of Technion-Israel Institute of Technology $69,012,794 (+1.8)
  • 271. Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles $68,575,000 (-23.0%)
  • 278. Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco $66,311,991 (-44.3%)
  • 289. Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit $63,889,600 (-19.4%)
  • 296. The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore $62,297,511 (+10.5%)
  • 314. Anti-Defamation League $58,963,791 (-13.6%)
  • 322. Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS $55,291,282 (-13.6%)
  • 355. Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland 49,873,859 (-14.7%)
  • 362. Jewish National Fund $48,343,847 (+8.8%)
  • 365. Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles $48,053,000 (-12.4%)
  • 366. P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds $47,995,288 (-35.1%)
  • 372. Friends of The Israel Defense Forces $46,721,080 (-21.3%)



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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