JSPAN Testifies Before City Council on Philadelphia Redistricting

JSPAN Newsletter - September 9, 2011

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: September 9, 2011
JSPAN Testifies Before City Council on Philadelphia Redistricting
Adam Bonin, member of the JSPAN Board, joined by JSPAN Vice President Ken Myers, testified on September 6 at a hearing on redistricting before five members of the Philadelphia City Council.

Under federal law and the City Charter, every ten years Council is required to redraw the voting districts from which it is selected, in order to equalize populations. This highly political process is never easy. Council President Verna, opening the hearing, noted that unless a new map is drawn this month, pay will be withheld from Council members until a map is adopted.

Bonin explained the tension between the belief of the Founding Fathers that districts need not be drawn to ensure that particular interest groups were represented, and the modern view - taught to him by his law professor Barack Obama - that elected members do not act perfectly as a filter for the diverse views present in their own districts.

JSPAN's main recommendations are that the existing Latino district be preserved, and that changes in district lines strive to preserve the functioning communities that make up the City: neighborhoods, police districts, school attendance zones, local civic organizations, youth sports leagues, parishes and all the different small communities through which Philadelphians define themselves and in which they take pride. For the full text of Mr. Bonin's remarks click here.


Save the Date - November 21, 2011 - JSPAN Social Justice Award Reception
JSPAN will confer its 2011 Social Justice Award to the firm of Langer Grogan & Diver on Monday, November 21 at a reception at the Independence Visitor Center, 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia. The event, which brings together long-time JSPAN stakeholders, members and friends, along with new supporters, will take place from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. The keynote speaker will be Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service.

Howard Langer and his colleagues, John Grogan, Ned Diver and Irv Ackelsberg, are being honored with the JSPAN Social Justice Award for the firm's deep and unflinching dedication to law in the public interest and their determination to fostering the same kind of life-long commitment among future generations of legal practitioners.

For more information and to become a member of the Event's Celebration Committee, or to purchase a ticket, contact JSPAN Executive Director Ruthanne Madway rmadway@jspan.org.

Express your respect for Langer Grogan and support for JSPAN by signing on NOW, and receive recognition in the printed invitation and program for the event. Call 215- 546-3732 for more information.


9/11 Remembered: Pentagon Memorial a Quiet Lesson for the Living
The Washington Post
By Manuel Roig-Franzia
September 3, 2011

Nearly 10 years on, airplanes still appear in the distance, vaguely at first, then clearer, then louder, then cringingly closer, wailing past the Pentagon. Truckers still grind gears on Route 27, commuters still honk and rev and skid to rubber-burning stops in the clotted traffic.

But the human ear possesses special gifts, and, somehow, in that two-acre plot of ground called the Pentagon Memorial, especially if you really try, the ear can filter out all that noise and latch onto the sound of peace. It gurgles in the bubbling pools beneath 184 benches, the symbols of 184 lives lost on that day in September. Close your eyes, and listen to the water. Peace.

And then it stops.

Stops cold.

Does it every day.

Every day at 9:37 a.m.

One minute.

The pause feels like a challenge, a subtle admonition, jarring you, nudging you to think about what happened here at that very moment on a sunny morning in 2001 when a Boeing 757 turned into a weapon of mass destruction.


[read more]


Fulfilling the Promise of 'Citizens United'
The Washington Post
By John C. Coates and Taylor Lincoln
September 6, 2011

The Supreme Court's January 2010 Citizens United decision to permit corporations to spend unlimited sums to influence federal elections was premised on a pair of yet- unfulfilled promises: Corporations would disclose their expenditures, and shareholders would be able to police such spending. The best chance to fulfill those promises may now rest with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC could require disclosure of political spending by public companies and facilitate action by shareholders to sign off on such spending.

Contrary to the consensus view, however, SEC action may prove to be a favor to the owners of the affected corporations. Despite reflexive opposition to the disclosure of political spending from many self-appointed business advocates, research we are publishing Wednesday suggests that disclosure of political activity might benefit corporate valuations and, at the least, mandatory disclosure would pose no threat of a detrimental effect.


[read more]
The Nation's Cruelest Immigration Law
JSPAN's Immigration Policy Center has adopted general principles on immigration including a belief that those undocumented immigrants currently in the country should have a legal road to permanent residency and citizenship [See these general principles on the JSPAN website at http://www.jspan.org/p/47#policy.] As described in the following editorial, the Alabama legislation recently enacted comprehensive new immigration laws designed to do just the opposite. -Ed.

August 28, 2011
The New York Times

The Alabama Legislature opened its session on March 1 on a note of humility and compassion. In the Senate, a Christian pastor asked God to grant members "wisdom and discernment" to do what is right. "Not what's right in their own eyes," he said, "but what's right according to your word." Soon after, both houses passed, and the governor signed, the country's cruelest, most unforgiving immigration law.

The law, which takes effect Sept. 1, is so inhumane that four Alabama church leaders — an Episcopal bishop, a Methodist bishop and a Roman Catholic archbishop and bishop - have sued to block it, saying it criminalizes acts of Christian compassion. It is a sweeping attempt to terrorize undocumented immigrants in every aspect of their lives, and to make potential criminals of anyone who may work or live with them or show them kindness.


[read more]


Indiana Vouchers Prompt Thousands to Change Schools
With communities around the country looking to state-sponsored education voucher programs as potential solutions for difficulties facing their schools, JSPAN has been examining this issue. The organization recently sponsored a program focusing on school vouchers featuring a debate between Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Williams, speaking in favor of vouchers, and Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach, speaking against state-sponsored vouchers. At its next meeting, JSPAN's Board will discuss taking a position or adopting a policy on school voucher programs. The following article describes the enormous impact of a new controversial school voucher program in Indiana. -Ed.

The Associated Press in The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Tom Coyne
August 29, 2011

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Weeks after Indiana began the nation's broadest school voucher program, thousands of students have transferred from public to private schools, causing a spike in enrollment at some Catholic institutions that were only recently on the brink of closing for lack of pupils. It's a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them vital tax dollars that often end up at parochial schools. Opponents say the practice violates the separation of church and state.

In at least one district, public school principals have been pleading with parents not to move their children.


[read more]


Ten Minutes of Torah - The Rhythm of Jewish Time - Is Such the Fast God Desires?
Union of Reform Judaism
By Jonathan Backer
August 30, 2011

In the Book of Isaiah, which we read on Yom Kippur, the Israelites wonder why the Day of Atonement does not atone for them despite their pious fast. Isaiah explains that the Israelites' fast is hollow and meaningless because they refuse to change the errors of their ways. God is indifferent to the Israelites' fast, Isaiah explains, "Because on your fast day you see to your business and oppress all your laborers! Because you fast in strife and contention, and you strike with a wicked fist" (Isaiah 58:3-4). The Israelites actions belie their outward display of piety, prompting God to exclaim, "Is such the fast I desire, a day for men to starve their bodies?" (Isaiah 58:5).

The United States is engaged in an ongoing debate over how to address the federal budget deficit, which came to a crescendo during the Congressional stalemate over raising the nation's borrowing limit. Our leaders agreed to spending cuts totaling at least $2.3 trillion dollars-a sum that will almost certainly result in deep cuts to anti-poverty programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid-without closing a single tax loophole or increasing revenue in any manner. In a nation of plenty, such choices prompt the question: Is this the fast God desires?


[read more]


Jewish Community Hero Nominations: $25,000 Grant for Community Project
From: Andy Neusner, Jewish Federations of North America

Think about the people who have touched your life this year.

Has anyone truly inspired you? It could be a teacher who goes above and beyond the call of duty, a community organizer who brings people together to help those in need, or a volunteer who gives time to a community service project that makes a difference.

If those words brought any names to mind, please nominate them as a Jewish Community Hero!


[read more]


Petition to Help Free Alan Gross
Jewish Community Relations Council
Washington, D.C.

Alan Gross, a resident of Potomac Maryland, was arrested in Cuba in December 2009 while on a humanitarian mission to help the small Jewish community there improve their internet access and to create an intranet for them. He has been incarcerated ever since, languishing in prison for over a year before being convicted by a Cuban court of "actions against the integrity of the State," and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He subsequently appealed his sentence to the Cuban Supreme Court and the court reaffirmed the sentence, exhausting all of Alan's legal remedies. His only avenue left is commutation of his sentence by Raul Castro, President of Cuba.

Alan and his supporters have fervently rejected all accusations that he did anything, or intended to do anything, to harm the Cuban government. Quite to the contrary, his work in Cuba was only to help to improve the Cuban Jewish community's ability to use the internet. The President of the United States, senior Administration officials, Members of Congress, national leaders, and newspaper editorials have all called for his immediate release.

Read more and access petition for release of Alan Gross:


State of Texas Appeals Federal Judge's Ruling on Abortion Law
The Associated Press posted on www.law.com
By April Castro
September 2, 2011

A new law aimed at reducing the number of abortions in Texas is set to go into effect this fall, but some of the toughest provisions will likely be tied up in litigation for months.

The state is appealing a judge's ruling that it's unconstitutional to require doctors to display an ultrasound image of the fetus or embryo, make the heartbeat audible and describe its organs and size to a woman before performing an abortion.

The remainder of the law, which applies to abortions starting Oct. 1, requires women to undergo an invasive vaginal sonogram at least 24 hours before an abortion is performed.

"Very experienced Ob/Gyns were already doing ultrasounds well before this law," said Julie Rikelman, a senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which sued to block portions of the law. "The focus of the lawsuit is that it was basically requiring doctors to act as a political agent ... just to do it because it was the government's political agenda."


[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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JSPAN Officers
Brian Gralnick

Lynn Zeitlin
First Vice President

Judah Labovitz
Vice President

Ruth Laibson
Vice President

Kenneth Myers
Vice President

Mark Newman
Vice President

Stephen Applebaum

Stewart Weintraub
Secretary & General Counsel

Susan Myers
Policy Centers Chair

Jeffrey Pasek
Chair of the Board of Directors

Irwin Aronson
Susan Bolno
Adam Bonin
David Boonin
David S. Broida
Deanne Comer
Hon. Ruth Damsker
Marshall Dayan
William Epstein
Kenneth Fox
Sarita Gocial
Paula Green
David Gutin
Raechel Hammer
Rabbi Elliot Holin
Margot Horwitz
Rhoda Indictor
Joanna Klein
Nathan Kleinman
Lazar Kleit
Marlena Kleit
Rabbi Robert Layman
Richard I. Malkin
Theodore Mann
Jay Meadway
Mark Newman
Maureen Pelta
Adena Potok
Audrey Ann Ross
J. Sanford Schwartz
Daniel Segal
Burt Siegel
Marc Stier
Rabbi David Straus
Ilene Wasserman
Rabbi Joshua Waxman
Deborah Weinstein
Alex Urevick Ackelsberg
Jill Katz Zipin
Gail Zukerman

Ruthanne Madway
Executive Director

Judah Labovitz
Ken Myers
Mark Newman
Deborah Weinstein

Ira Goldberg




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