January 2015


JSPAN Newsletter - January 2015

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In this Issue:
Newsletter: January 2015
How the Police and Minority Youth Can Improve Their Interactions: JSPAN, Cheltenham NAACP & Arcadia U. to Co-Sponsor MLK Day Program
In commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, Cheltenham Area Branch of the NAACP and Arcadia University's Office of Institutional Diversity are again collaborating on a timely criminal justice program. Join us for How the Police and Minority Youth Can Improve Their Interactions, Monday, January 19, 7 p.m., at the University Commons Great Room at Arcadia University.

The program will feature a panel of law enforcement officers, community members, and youth, moderated by Philadelphia Deputy District Attorney George D. Mosee, Jr. who oversees the prosecution of juvenile offenders in Philadelphia. The panel will address the initial contact the police have with minority youth, the manner in which outcomes can be neutral/positive instead of negative, and a new curriculum designed to facilitate better understanding and interaction between police and minority youth.

The new curriculum is an outgrowth of a series of professionally facilitated forums held in Philadelphia and other cities by the Disproportionate Minority Contact Subcommittee of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Committee of the Pennsylvania Commissions on Crime and Delinquency.


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JSPAN Welcomes New Board Members
The JSPAN Board of Directors is pleased to announce and welcome the following new Board members whose terms begin January 2015:
  • Katie Rose Beran, Law Clerk for the Honorable Gerald A. McHugh Jr., U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Rabbi Seth Goren, Director, Repair the World: Philadelphia
  • Edward I. Hoffman, Hoffman Forensic Accounting
  • Jonathan C. Lipson, Harold E. Kohn Professor of Law, Temple University-Beasley School of Law
  • Bryan Schwartzman, Manager of Marketing and Communication Evans Consulting Group, LLC,
  • Dan Siegel, Political Strategist, Themis Strategies



JSPAN Joins Attack on Mount Soledad Cross
During December of 2014, JSPAN signed on to new amicus curiae briefs submitted in two important cases, one now pending before U.S. Supreme Court and the other before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Details are reported below. -Ed.

JSPAN has joined the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and several organizations representing Jewish and other religions, in a brief amicus curiae submitted to the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in the pending case of Trunk v. Hagel, Secretary of Defense. The suit seeks to have the government dismantle the 29 foot tall Latin cross in a city park on Mt. Soledad, overlooking La Jolla California. Supporters of the cross, which was first erected in 1913, claim that it is a war memorial without religious significance and seek to justify it as free speech. The litigation, begun in 1989, resulted in a decision of the federal district court in 2002 ordering the city to take down the cross. In an effort to preserve the symbol, the federal government condemned the land on which the cross sits, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the case against the symbol despite the change in ownership. On remand the federal government was ordered to remove the cross. The order has been stayed pending completion of the further appeal to the 9th Circuit.

The amicus brief urges that a Latin cross, no matter how long it stands, remains a Christian religious symbol. War memorial plaques and other nearby symbols including an American flag on Mt. Soledad do not lighten the effect, but rather, enlarge the inappropriate appearance of government endorsement of religion, the brief argues. Those supporting the monument argue that its century -long history immunizes it from attack, but the amicus brief points out the extended history of religious discrimination in housing in La Jolla, explaining the delay in legal action.


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JSPAN Joins Brief to Supreme Court in Abercrombie & Fitch Case
The clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch views its salespeople as models, expected to dress in the informal "collegiate" style that they market. When an applicant sat through her employment interview wearing a hijab head covering, the interviewer explained the dress policy. The applicant never asked to be accommodated on religious grounds, and the interviewer never inquired whether she wore the hijab for religious reasons. Her job application was declined. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought a complaint against Abercrombie & Fitch for failure to offer a religious accommodation to the applicant under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The District Court granted summary judgment to the Commission, but the 10th Circuit, on appeal, reversed and granted summary judgment to Abercrombie, primarily because the job applicant never explained that she needed a religious accommodation.

The EEOC has been granted certiorari to appeal to the Supreme Court.

If it prevails, that would put a burden on an employer to be alert to recognize that the applicant or employee is in need of relief from some job requirement, without waiting for a request, and to open the discussion and seek to reach an accommodation.

The amicus curiae brief submitted in December on behalf of American Jewish Committee, JSPAN and others, supports the EEOC, arguing that the key element under Title VII begins with a conversation between employer and present or prospective employee, and goes on to bilateral cooperation between them. Although employers do not have license to question applicants about their religious beliefs or observances in general, when the need for accommodation is apparent, the employer must initiate the discussion and bilateral cooperation. The brief is co-authored by Marc D Stern of the American Jewish Committee.


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Chanukah Action Proclaims: Black Lives Matter
On the last night of Chanukah, over a hundred Jews from the area came together at 30th Street Station in solidarity with people of color-as part of a series of events sponsored by Bend the Arc (the national Jewish social justice organization with which JSPAN is affiliated). The ultimate goal was to gain support for creating an agenda for racial justice.

The commemoration began with the blowing of shofars (one blown by our Executive Director, Rabbi George Stern), followed by menorah lighting. The names and ages of dozens of unarmed African American young adults shot by police during 2014 were read out, as was a call for an end to violence against police officers. Two African American Jews reminded those present that persistent bias and unconscious stereotyping of blacks, especially young men, indeed touches the Jewish community directly.

The conveners of the event, an ad hoc group of rabbis and lay people, shared the broad-based demands of POWER, Philadelphia's growing interfaith community organizing group, including transparent police review boards, a nationwide minimum wage of $15 an hour, and-in Pennsylvania-adequate funding of public education based on a fair funding formula. All of these goals are shared by JSPAN through various policy statements we have issued.


As a reader of the JSPAN Newsletter you likely already know a lot about the Jewish Social Policy Action Network-the programs we sponsor, the amicus briefs we file, the positions we take on important domestic social policy issues-and, hopefully, in this Newsletter, you are finding articles of interest on topics that you care about.

But what you may not know is how we function and - more importantly - how JSPAN can help you satisfy your desire to contribute to tikkun olam, to advance social justice, support progressive public policy and ensure fairness and equality for everyone in our region and nation. From our beginnings over ten years ago, we have attracted people who care about a variety of domestic social policy issues. Among these are aging, separation of church and state, economic justice, education, elections and voting, energy and the environment, ethnic and religious conflict, gun control, healthcare and bioethics, hunger and food security, immigration, LGBT equality, criminal justice and reproductive freedom. As part of its pursuit of social justice-a central tenet of Judaism-for each of these areas, JSPAN has established a "policy center" to keep us alerted to important developments on these issues and to develop solid positions on social policies upon which to base the organization's educational and advocacy efforts.

We invite you to get involved in these policy centers and otherwise to contribute to the work of the organization. Change happens when we work together. We are looking for people from all segments of the community-business people, students, educators, healthcare providers, clergy, lawyers, writers, social workers and community activitists-who seek an effective way to use their skills and passions in the service of social justice.

If you would like to work on issues of concern to you, please be in touch with our Executive Director, Rabbi George Stern (georgestern@jspan.org). If you have relevant professional or personal background on these issues, please let us know. We hope to hear from you!


17 Things We Learned About Income Inequality in 2014
In 2014, JSPAN determined to focus its advocacy and education efforts during the year particularly on the growing problem of income inequality in our society. We issued a new statement on fair wages, sponsored a screening of Robert Reich's film, Inequality for All (now available at http://inequalityforall.com), and informed our readers about opportunities to advocate for efforts designed to reverse or correct this trend by, for instance, raising the minimum wage and correcting inequalities in public education. Unfortunately, as the articles below show, although unemployment rates and the economy in general have improved, new data show that economic inequality has increased and disparities have grown by race and ethnicity. -Ed.

The Atlantic Monthly
By The Editors
December 23, 2014

Earnings growth for the richest Americans has been outpacing the income growth of the lower and middle classes since the 1970s, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities's analysis of data from the Congressional Budget Office. That means that income inequality is not a new concept. So why does it suddenly feel like such a big deal?

Well, in the wake of the recession, the pinch of sluggish wages and the lackluster job market are more acute for more Americans. President Obama also played a part in the narrative, highlighting the issue during his 2014 State of the Union address, saying, "Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by-let alone get ahead."



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Wealth Inequality Has Widened Along Racial, Ethnic Lines Since End of Great Recession
Pew Research Center
By Rakesh Kochhard and Richard Fry
December 12, 2014

The Great Recession, fueled by the crises in the housing and financial markets, was universally hard on the net worth of American families. But even as the economic recovery has begun to mend asset prices, not all households have benefited alike, and wealth inequality has widened along racial and ethnic lines.

The wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013, compared with eight times the wealth in 2010, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances. Likewise, the wealth of white households is now more than 10 times the wealth of Hispanic households, compared with nine times the wealth in 2010. The current gap between blacks and whites has reached its highest point since 1989,


[read more]


New Census Data Shows Rich Getting Richer, Poor Getting Poorer
The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Alfred Lubrano
December 8, 2014

Illustrating the gap between wealth and poverty in the area, new census data shows that in Philadelphia's impoverished Fairhill section, residents have median household incomes of $14,185 a year - 1/12 that of the richest region in the area, Chester County's Birmingham Township.

The median household income in Birmingham, a bedroom community of financiers, lawyers, and other professionals 32 miles west of Center City, is $171,689, according to estimates compiled between 2009 and 2013 in the newly released American Community Survey from the Census Bureau.

The polar extremes in income are, experts say, stark examples of the inequality that's growing throughout America.


[read more]


Your Opinion Counts

The editors of the JSPAN newsletter welcome reader's comments regarding the content and format of the newsletter. We want to know what you like and dislike. Are we providing a perspective and service that you find informative and worth reading? Do you have comments on specific articles or items? Let us know what you think! Send all comments to newsletter@jspan.org




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Remember that JSPAN welcomes your donations to help us continue our important and effective work in Tikkun Olam. You may send gifts and donate using this direct line on www.jspan.org. or to JSPAN, 1735 Market Street, Suite #A417, Philadelphia, PA 19103




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JSPAN Officers
Deborah Weinstein

Judah Labovitz
Vice President

Richard I. Malkin
M.D., Vice President

Kenneth R. Myers
Vice President

Burt Siegel
Vice President

George Pomerantz

David Gutin
Assistant Treasurer

Joanna Klein

Jeffrey Pasek
Policy Center Chair

Stewart Weintraub
General Counsel

Rabbi George Stern
Executive Director

Irwin Aronson
Susan Bolno
Adam Bonin
Hon. Ruth Damsker
William Epstein
Brian Gralnick
Margot Horwitz
Adrienne Jacoby Ph.D.
Hon. Babette Josephs
Nathan Kleinman
Marlena Kleit
Ruth Laibson
Theodore Mann
Jay Meadway
Adena Potok
Audrey Ann Ross
J. Sanford Schwartz M.D.
Dan Segal
Marc Stier Ph.D.
Rabbi David Straus
Ilene Wasserman Ph.D.
Lynn G. Zeitlin
Jill Katz Zipin
Gail Zukerman

Judah Labovitz
Ken Myers
Deborah Weinstein

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.

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