JSPAN Announces 2010 Social Justice Award

JSPAN Newsletter - August 13, 2010

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: August 13, 2010
JSPAN Announces 2010 Social Justice Award
Arlene Fickler, noted attorney and community activist, will receive the Jewish Social Policy Action Network's sixth annual Social Justice Award at a reception November 16, 2010 in the Independence Visitor Center, Philadelphia.

In announcing her selection, JSPAN Chairman Jeff Pasek stated: "Arlene is honored for her achievements as an outstanding leader whose efforts have reached many areas of our community. We recognize the accomplishments of an individual who helped break the glass ceiling for women in the law while devoting enormous time to pro bono and community service activities. Through this event we also provide needed support for JSPAN's unique domestic religious freedom and civil rights program."

Fickler's community service includes the Federation Board of Trustees, the JCC Board, HIAS, JCRC, Temple BZBI, the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, JSPAN's litigating arm of the Church State Policy Center, the JCC Maccabi Games, and other important appointments. 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 firm that bears her name, Hoyle, Fickler, Herschel & Mathes LLP.

Hold the date of November 16 for a great early evening celebration! For an advance reservation and a place on the formal invitation, call or e-mail JSPAN's executive director Lynn Gottlieb ( (610) 416-2542 or lynn@jspan.org).


President Obama: Don't Restrict Women's Access to Abortion Care!
by Lynn Gottlieb, JSPAN Executive Director

The Jewish Social Policy Action Network opposes the Obama administration's decision to limit a woman's ability to purchase abortion coverage while enrolled in the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIPs), or high-risk insurance pools, created by the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This restriction fails to recognize that the women accessing these high-risk pools are among the most medically vulnerable. Because of their pre-existing health conditions, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes, they are more likely to encounter pregnancy complications and to require access to abortion care.

In a letter sent to President Obama on August 6, 2010 on behalf of the JSPAN Board, president Brian Gralnick explained that "even using their own private funds, assuming that is financially possible, individuals would not be able to buy separate abortion coverage while enrolled in these pools." The President is urged "to reverse this unnecessary restriction on women's health options, and allow women to use their private funds to purchase abortion coverage while enrolled in the PCIPs."

Click here to read the JSPAN letter to President Obama.

The President needs to hear from you too! He can be reached at:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500  


JSPAN Supports the Protection of Constitutional Liberties in NYC
At its meeting on August 4, 2010, the JSPAN Board of Directors voted to send the letter below to Lisa Hostein, executive editor of the Jewish Exponent, in support of "the building of an Islamic Center, including a mosque, in lower Manhattan near "Ground Zero." The letter was signed by Lynn Gottlieb, JSPAN's executive director, on behalf of the Board. It reaffirms the hope that the Center will "serv(e) the entire community, and promot(e) tolerance and peaceful coexistence among all Americans."

Click here to read the JSPAN letter to the Jewish Exponent.

Just as the construction of the mosque near "Ground Zero" is eliciting strong protests, in many communities across the nation attempts to erect mosques are facing a more blatant kind of protest - one directly against Islam. New York Times journalist Laurie Goodstein reported on August 8, 2010 that "at one time, neighbors who did not want mosques in their backyards said their concerns were over traffic, parking and noise - the same reasons they might object to a church or a synagogue. But now the gloves are off. In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself."

To read "Across the Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition" by Laurie Goodstein in its entirety, click here.



Should PA Have a Constitutional Convention?
JSPAN is among a group of organizations, including the Committee of 70, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Bar Institute and Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, who are sponsoring an in-depth presentation and discussion on September 21, 2010 on the subject "Should Pennsylvania Have a Constitutional Convention?" The program will be held live in the Wanamaker Building in Philadelphia, with simulcasts in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The course is being planned and moderated by Kenneth R. Myers, attorney and JSPAN vice president.

Calls for a constitutional convention in Pennsylvania are coming from the Governor, legislators, and various media and civic organizations. Subjects proposed for amendment include the budget process, merit selection of judges, redistricting, term limits, and governance generally, among others. The Pennsylvania Constitution may be amended by the legislature or by constitutional convention, in either case with ratification by the public. The most recent large scale amendments were adopted by the convention process in 1967-68. Few lawyers can recall that convention, and there is little familiarity with that procedure for changing the constitution.

The program on September 21 will examine two topics: first, procedures for changing the state constitution, the pertinent judicial precedents, and the organization of a constitutional convention; and second, concerns that a constitutional convention would be an invitation to mischief from special interest groups. CLE credits are available for attendees.

To get more information and to register for this course, call (800) 247-4724.



A Stirring Encounter of Two Decades Ago Unexpectedly Revisited
Leonard Fein is a writer and educator. In 1974 he founded "Moment" magazine, which became America's leading independent journal of Jewish affairs, and which he served as editor and publisher for 13 years. In 1985 he founded MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the only national Jewish nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing and alleviating hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds. His articles and essays have appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines and journals, including The New York Times, The New Republic, Commentary, The Nation, the Los Angeles Times and The Forward.

The following essay was written by Mr. Fein in response to the news last month of the precipitous firing by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack of Shirley Sherrod, the African-American bureaucrat who worked in the Georgia office of the Department. It appeared first in The Forward and is included here with permission of the author.

It would be an absurd overstatement to say that we were friends, but it is true that some 20 years ago, along with Irv Cramer, then the executive director of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, I spent the better part of a week traveling through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, a trip organized for us by Shirley and Charles Sherrod. Ms. Sherrod was, at the time, director of the Georgia State Office of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, a job she held for 24 years until, just a year ago, she was named U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Georgia State Director.

Charles Sherrod, her husband, a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and a hero of the early stirring of the civil rights movement, in Albany, Georgia, was her partner in the founding of “New Communities,” an effort (modeled in part on the Israeli kibbutzim they visited in 1968) intended to generate cooperative farms, principally for Black farmers.

Shirley Sherrod is, of course, the suddenly famous woman who was summarily fired from her government position, much to what very quickly turned out to be the appropriate embarrassment of the government, the news media and even some of the Fox news opinionators. The snippet of her 40 minute March talk that was originally distributed was swiftly shown to be a misleading fraud, suggesting a view Sherrod had actually and explicitly disowned. But by the time the fraud was revealed, the bus of false witness had already left the station. Instead, Sherrod herself was disowned by the Department of Agriculture and the NAACP. And there was evening and there was morning and there was evening and there was redemption, the fraud revealed in all its inciteful tawdriness, then the transformation of an alleged racist into a martyr and then into something of a heroine.


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The 10 Worst Supreme Court Decisions
M. Kelly Tillery is a partner in the Intellectual Property Group of Pepper Hamilton LLP. In the Summer 2010 issue of The Philadelphia Lawyer, the quarterly magazine of the Philadelphia Bar Association, as a prelude to the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, Mr. Tillery offered a "winners" list of what he perceives as the "Top 10" WORST United States Supreme Court legal opinions since its creation on September 24, 1789.

Mr. Tillery opines that "while there is disagreement based mostly on extremes in ideology and/or religious belief, there appears to be legal and historical scholarly consensus on a number of opinions that are the 'worst.' Since there are more than 10, honing the list down to the 'Top 10' is not easy or simple, but I have tried, acknowledging that others may disagree with one or more being included or feel I have omitted one or more of their 'favorites.'

And the 'winners,' in chronological order, are...

(Mr. Tillery's article is copyright 2010, Philadelphia Bar Association, and is used with permission.)


Conversion War Undermines Israel and Its Image
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie has been the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the congregational arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in North America, since 1996. The Union represents 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues across the United States and Canada.

The following op-ed column appeared July 26, 2010 on JTA.org.

Reviewing the recent successful effort of "a broad-based coalition of American Jews ... in convincing Israel's leaders to delay a vote on a controversial new conversion bill in the Knesset," Rabbi Yoffie states that "no one ... won the latest round of conversion wars, ... (but) perhaps Israel's political leaders will finally understand: Religious extremism must be rejected, the sensitivities of world Jewry must be respected, coalition politics must be transcended and Jewish unity must be affirmed. Neither the Jewish people nor the State of Israel can afford the heavy price of these ongoing religious crises."

Who won the latest round of the conversion wars?

No one. In these wars, everybody loses.

To be sure, a broad-based coalition of American Jews, anchored by the federation system and the Reform and Conservative movements, succeeded in convincing Israel’s leaders to delay a vote on a controversial new conversion bill in the Knesset. This was a monumental accomplishment, averting the disaster that was certain to ensue if the legislation had been adopted.

Nonetheless, there is no reason for satisfaction.

At this moment, Israel should be mobilizing her friends to confront the dangers posed by Iran. She should be responding to the outrageous anti-Israel actions of the United Nations. She should be working with the American government to advance the cause of peace.

Instead, Israel has spent several months engaged in an ugly battle with American Jewish leadership. American Jews committed to Israel’s welfare had no choice but to join a public lobbying effort aimed at Israel’s government.


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Swastika Is Described as 'Universal' Hate Symbol
On July 27, 2010 the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released its 2009 statistical audit of anti-Semitic assaults, vandalism and harassment. The report counted a "sustained and troubling" total of 1,211 such incidents against Jewish individuals, property and community institutions across the United States.

For the first time in the more than three decades ADL has tracked and reported on anti-Semitic incidents, the 2009 Audit was significantly revamped to improve reporting methods and update some evaluation criteria. Using the new methodology, the Audit identified 29 physical assaults on Jewish individuals, 760 incidents of anti-Semitic harassment and threats, and 422 cases of anti-Semitic vandalism during the 2009 calendar year.

In an effort to make the survey as accurate as possible, the ADL decided to take a more conservative approach to counting certain types of incidents, including graffiti and swastikas. If, for instance, it appeared Jews were not specifically the target of scrawled swastikas, the incidents were not included in the league's audit. The tally was down from 2008, which found 1,352 incidents, in part because of the new approach to swastikas.

"The swastika has morphed into a universal symbol of hate," said Abraham Foxman, ADL's national director. "Today it's used as an epithet against African-Americans, Hispanics and gays, as well as Jews, because it is a symbol which frightens.

"We know that the swastika has, for some, lost its meaning as the primary symbol of Nazism. ... So we are being more careful to include graffiti incidents that specifically target Jews or Jewish institutions as we continue the process of re-evaluating and redefining how we measure anti-Jewish incidents."


The Recession Generation: Congress Must Act Now to Prevent Long-Term Damage
The Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) is an alliance of national organizations working together to promote public policies which address the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations. The Coalition's members include civil rights, religious, labor and professional organizations and those concerned with the well being of children, women, the elderly and people with disabilities.

In an op-ed which appeared in the August 9, 2010 issue of the Huffington Post, Deborah Weinstein, executive director of CHN, detailed some of the conclusions of "The Recession Generation: Preventing Long-term Damage from Child Poverty and Young Adult Joblessness," a new report recently released by the Coalition. The report's data supports the argument that "the Great Recession has plunged us into very bad times. The Recession Generation - the workforce of our future - will pay the price. ... With one in four children projected to be poor and 16-24 year olds making up nearly one-third of the unemployed, the lasting damage will not just harm them. Our nation's economic prosperity will suffer because so many of our future workers will be held back."

Ms. Weinstein asks: "Will we consign the Recession Generation to a lifetime of diminished prospects? ... Some in Congress are acting as though the only course before us is to leave the Recession Generation behind. They are using the current deficit to justify ending or reducing investments we are now making in nutrition, health, jobs, education and other needed services.

"We have the tools at our disposal to boost the economy while helping a generation of children and young adults escape the worst consequences of the recession. Why would we hesitate?"

To read "The Recession Generation: Congress Must Act Now to Prevent Long-Term Damage" by Deborah Weinstein in its entirety, click here.

To read the report of the Coalition on Human Needs, "The Recession Generation: Preventing Long-Term Damage from Child Poverty and Young Adult Joblessness," click here.


Orthodox Jews Issue Statement in Support of Gays
On August 7, 2010, in an incident which was condemned as a hate crime, two people were killed and 15 others wounded in an attack at a central Tel Aviv gay and lesbian center. On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the shooting, a "Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community" was released in Jerusalem by an ad hoc group of individuals from the modern-Orthodox community in the United States and Israel.

The statement, a consensus document arrived at after hundreds of hours of discussion, debate and editing, including input from gay activists in the Orthodox community, contains the signatures of over 100 modern-Orthodox rabbis, educators and mental-health professionals. It states that "all human beings are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect," and that "embarrassing, harassing or demeaning homosexuals is a violation of Torah prohibitions that embody the deepest values of Judaism." An especially controversial section says gays and lesbians should be "welcomed as full members of the synagogue and school community, and that they should count ritually, for the purposes of communal prayer, and be eligible for ritual synagogue honors."

The statement also declared that while Jewish law "cannot give its blessing and imprimatur to Jewish religious same-sex commitment ceremonies and weddings," Jewish communities should "embrace the adopted or biological children of homosexually active Jews in the synagogue and school setting."

To read the "Statement of Principles" in its entirety, click here.


Thomas Friedman's Middle East: Full of Compassion, Even Among Enemies, and Cruelty, Even Among Neighbors
On August 8, 2010, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman reflected in his op-ed on the increasing "trend, both deliberate and inadvertent, to delegitimize Israel - to turn it into a pariah state, particularly in the wake of the Gaza war." This trend is manifesting itself in a variety of different forms, including comments by those in the media, politics, and even the arts.

Mr. Friedman is not, however, "defend(ing) Israel's bad behavior. Just the opposite. I've long argued that Israel's colonial settlements in the West Bank are suicidal for Israel as a Jewish democracy. I don't think Israel's friends can make that point often enough or loud enough.

"But there are two kinds of criticism. Constructive criticism starts by making clear: 'I know what world you are living in.' ... If you convey to Israelis that you understand the world they're living in, and then criticize, they'll listen.

"Destructive criticism closes Israeli ears. It says to Israelis: There is no context that could explain your behavior, and your wrongs are so uniquely wrong that they overshadow all others. Destructive criticism only empowers the most destructive elements in Israel to argue that nothing Israel does matters, so why change?"

In conclusion, Mr. Friedman suggests to his readers that "if you still want to be a critic (as I do), be a constructive one. A lot more Israelis and Palestinians will listen to you."

To read "Steal This Movie" by Thomas Friedman in its entirety, click here.


The Jewish State and the Jewish Diaspora
Edgar M. Bronfman, a Canadian businessman, was president from 1981 to 2007 of the World Jewish Congress, the federation of Jewish communities outside of Israel and the preeminent international Jewish organization. Mr. Bronfman is also a philanthropist who is credited with helping revive Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life in the 1990s. He established the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel, a leadership program for Jewish youth, and is the founder of the website MyJewishLearning.com.

In an op-ed entitled "The Jewish State and the Jewish Diaspora," which appeared on August 6, 2010 in "The Daily Brief" of the Huffington Post, Mr. Bronfman posits that "the present and future of the Jewish people will ... be decided to a large extent by the relationship between the Jewish state and the American Jewish community. ... The relationship needs to be rethought and updated for the twenty-first century. ... I believe that the American Jewish community's relationship with Israel can have a positive impact on the prospects for Middle East peace and, by extension, a positive impact on Israel itself."

Mr. Bronfman stresses that this relationship hinges on three critical points: first of all, "the American Jewish community will only support a liberal and democratic Israel. ... The notion that as a Jew, one has to take a position of 'my Israel, right or wrong,' is deeply problematic. ... Moreover, calling anyone who criticizes certain Israeli policies a 'self-hating Jew' is simply alienating and divisive.

"The second way the American Jewish Diaspora can help actualize a 'better Israel' is by the power of example. The majesty of the American Jewish experience is in its success marrying its unique Jewish identity with the larger, liberal values of the United States. ... Opening the young Israeli minds to the outside world, particularly the vibrant American Jewish community itself, can only help the Jewish state.

"Yet another way American Jewry must continue to help Israel is by its traditional political support here in the United States. ... However, even as we extend this political support, we should never stop questioning how we can make a 'better Israel' a reality."

To read "The Jewish State and the Jewish Diaspora" by Edgar Bronfman in its entirety, click here.


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JSPAN Officers
Brian Gralnick

Kenneth Fox
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
Judah Labovitz
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.

Ruth Laibson



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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