Interview with Ruthanne Madway, JSPAN’s New Director

JSPAN Newsletter - February 11, 2011

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
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Newsletter: February 11, 2011
Interview with Ruthanne Madway, JSPAN’s New Director
By Mark Newman, Member of the JSPAN Board and co-editor of the JSPAN Newsletter
February 2, 2011

I recently sat down with Ruthanne Madway, JSPAN’s new Director, to interview her for the JSPAN newsletter. Ruthanne officially started on February 1 and though it will take her a little time to get her bearings and facilitate a more comprehensive agenda, I thought it would be valuable for the members to get to know her and understand how she might help move JSPAN forward.

We spoke over a lunch of falafel and mint tea at 13th and Walnut last week. The location was most appropriate, as Ruthanne was the founder and Executive Director of the East of Broad Improvement Association (EBA), which for over a decade, was committed to revitalizing a section of Center City that had become neglected, had a high vacancy rate, and was not an attractive destination for shoppers or residents. East of Broad is geographically defined as between Broad Street and 7th Street, and from Market Street to South Street. During Ruthanne’s tenure, the transformation of this area moved steadily forward, and today is a more desirable place to work and live as well as a destination for Philadelphians looking for hip shops and restaurants.

I asked her how she was able to help transform this area. “I’m really good at networking and getting people together,” she said. At EBA “I saw my job as uniting commercial interests with residential interests.” Building a coalition of people and businesses interested in promoting and revitalizing the area was critical. Ruthanne started EBA because she saw it as the “key to the success and renaissance of Center City.” The neighborhood was talked about as the “donut hole” of Center City, because it was an undesirable and neglected part of Philadelphia, surrounded on all sides by more prosperous and popular areas and neighborhoods.


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Coming Full Circle on Triangle Factory Fire
JSPAN is co-hosting a commemorative event remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire 100 years ago. The event will take place on Thursday, March 24, 2011 at the National Museum of American Jewish History on Independence Mall, from 5:30 to 7:30. – Ed.

By Maia Efrem
Forward - Published February 04, 2011

Among the volunteers who joined a sewing circle to remember the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire 100 years ago, the talk around the table jumped from details of the historic blaze to an eerily similar fire that erupted in a garment factory in Bangladesh in December.

Several Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition members discussed the fire in a factory near Dhaka, Bangladesh, that killed at least 25 workers and injured another 100. More than a dozen trapped workers jumped to their deaths from the 10th floor to escape the blaze. The factory manufactured clothing to be distributed to the Gap and to J.C. Penney Co.


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Three Perspectives on the Protests in Egypt
The situation in Egypt is still unfolding and every day brings new developments. Below are a few different views on what’s happening. – Ed.

Speakers’ Corner on the Nile
Op-Ed By Thomas L. Friedman
New York Times – Febraury 8, 2011

I’m in Tahrir Square, and of all the amazing things one sees here the one that strikes me most is a bearded man who is galloping up and down, literally screaming himself hoarse, saying: “I feel free! I feel free!” Gathered around him are Egyptians of all ages, including a woman so veiled that she has only a slit for her eyes, and they’re all holding up cellphones taking pictures and video of this man, determined to capture the moment in case it never comes again.

Aren’t we all? In 40 years of writing about the Middle East, I have never seen anything like what is happening in Tahrir Square. In a region where the truth and truth-tellers have so long been smothered under the crushing weight of oil, autocracy and religious obscurantism, suddenly the Arab world has a truly free space — a space that Egyptians themselves, not a foreign army, have liberated — and the truth is now gushing out of here like a torrent from a broken hydrant.


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An American in Cairo, Facing Tear Gas and Chaos, Tries To Find His Way Home
Letter From Cairo
By Eric Trager
Forward – Published February 02, 2011

On “Angry Friday” — January 28 — just as the demonstrations that rocked Egypt turned violent, I tried to make my way home.

After navigating side streets to avoid the suffocating clouds of tear gas that riot police shot into the sky with reckless abandon, I arrived at a key bridge over the Nile, only to find that protesters had blocked it with burning tires. I ran back along a side street, passing a hospital where doctors were tossing face masks from the windows to protect pedestrians from the gas. But I was unable to snatch one, so I kept winding my way through side streets, avoiding the tear gas’s full effect, only thanks to the fact that an activist had wiped my face with Coke only an hour earlier.


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Netanyahu Must Advance Peace If He Wants A Stable Mideast
Haaretz Editorial – February 8, 2011

Netanyahu cannot stop at making demands on others; he smust ask himself what Israel needs to do to preserve and even strengthen the peace. The upheaval in Egypt is sowing anxiety in Israel. President Hosni Mubarak's government adhered strictly to the peace treaty, functioned as a stabilizing force in the region and supported expanding the circle of peace agreements to the Palestinians and neighboring states. The eight Israeli prime ministers who served over the course of Mubarak's 30-year reign could depend on him for strategic support, even when they waged wars on other fronts and deepened the occupation and the settlement enterprise.


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Army's 'Spiritual Fitness' Test Angers Some Soldiers
Is “Spiritual fitness” a smoke screen for religion? - Ed

By Barbara Bradley Hagerty
NPR – January 13, 2011

Multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a toll on soldiers: Witness the rise in suicides and other stress-related disorders. A few years ago, the Army noticed that some soldiers fared better than others, and it wondered: Why?

One reason, says Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, is that people who are inclined toward spirituality seem to be more resilient.

"Researchers have found that spiritual people have decreased odds of attempting suicide, and that spiritual fitness has a positive impact on quality of life, on coping and on mental health," says Cornum, who is director of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness.


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The Chinese Discover Jews and Israel and Can’t Seem To Get Enough
By Nathan Jeffay
Forward - February 04, 2011

TEL AVIV — Back in 1991 Chen Yiyi was, as he puts it, a “bored” law student at Peking University. At the time, China was in the process of formalizing relations with Israel, and the Chinese Education Ministry and Israel’s Foreign Ministry selected his university as the site of China’s first Hebrew course taught by visiting Israeli teachers. When the class fell short of its eight-student enrollment target, Chen was persuaded to sign up to boost its numbers.

Little did Chen know at the time that he was embarking on a career in what would soon be a burgeoning field within Chinese academia: Jewish studies.


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On a Path to Open the Gates of Torah to Everyone
Feb. 13 conference to address inclusion of disabled people in Jewish life
January 06, 2011 - Lynn B. Edelman, Jewish Federation Feature

Shelly Christensen knows firsthand the challenges of parenting a child with disabilities, and making him/her feel fully comfortable and included in the Jewish community

Christensen, keynote speaker for the Sunday, Feb. 13 conference, "Opening the Gates of Torah: Including People With Disabilities in the Jewish Community," set for 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Tiferet Bet Israel in Blue Bell, began a new career as program manager of the Minneapolis Jewish Community Inclusion Program for People With Disabilities when her son, Jacob, was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism.

The nationally recognized program seeks to remove barriers of attitude, communication, physical accessibility and monetary limitations in order to enable people with disabilities to participate fully in worship, learning, and recreational and social activities.

Christensen acknowledges that there have been many positive changes in the way American schools, recreational centers, businesses and other organizations accommodate those with special needs since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. "However, our country's religious institutions still struggle with fully including individuals with disabilities in congregational life," she says.

She relates the story of one woman who "tearfully told a rabbi in a Minneapolis congregation that she was unable to say Kaddish for her deceased parents because she could not navigate her wheelchair in her family's synagogue." In this new, wheelchair-accessible shul, the woman rejoiced in fulfilling the mitzvah of honoring her parents' memories, yet barriers still remained to her full participation in congregational life.


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