June 13, 2014


JSPAN Newsletter - June 13, 2014

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: June 13, 2014
Rabbi Steve Gutow Addresses JSPAN Supporters at Annual Meeting on Faith and Social Justice
By: Rabbi George Stern, JSPAN Executive Director

Given all the jokes about Jews arguing-two Jews, three opinions-it should come as no surprise that our argumentativeness goes all the way back to the first Hebrew, Abraham- whose argument was with none other than the Most Holy and Powerful One, God. You will recall how Abraham got God to relent regarding Sodom and Gomorrah-so that even if there were just a handful of righteous people there, God would not destroy the towns. Rabbi Steve Gutow, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs I(JCPA), cited that and other biblical stories in his June 8 address to JSPAN's annual spring meeting, co- sponsored by the JCRC, "We Shall Move Mountains: Faith as an Engine for Realizing Social Justice." He provided us with a structure on how faith can best function to bring about positive change. Like Abraham, who addressed God on God's own moral terms ("shall not the Judge of all the earth act justly?") and Moses centuries later, we need to be humble, engaging people of diverse opinions in order to come to consensus and addressing those with whom we disagree with respect.

During a lively Q&A session after his talk, Rabbi Gutow urged JSPAN and JCRC to work together and to collaborate with other groups in order to tackle the enormous social challenges facing Philadelphia, the large city with the highest percentage of "deep poverty" (14% of our citizens struggle with resources below HALF of the "poverty rate"!) and with a public school system neglected for so long that it is barely functional. Indeed, even among Philadelphia Jews, a quarter live at or near the poverty line, though thankfully not in "deep poverty." Along with JSPAN, he believes that Jews have an obligation to engage in serious tikkun olam in our own backyards. Moreover, Rabbi Gutow urged us never to give up hope. He cited the story of David and Goliath as a paradigm for believing in the possibility of changing the world despite challenging odds, working to improve the lives of the most vulnerable around us, even if just a little. Thus JSPAN welcomes your support in moving our agenda forward and encourages you to find a place for fulfilling your own passion for justice by working with us in one of our Policy Centers, listed at http://www.jspan.org/ policy-centers.

Rabbi Gutow was introduced by his mentor Theodore (Ted) Mann, one of JSPAN's founders and a social justice leader in this city and throughout the nation for over a half century. Mann was National Chair of the JCPA itself, led the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations from 1978-1980, chaired the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and American Jewish Congress, and served as founding chair of MAZON-A Jewish Response to Hunger. All of this he did with great humility, just as Rabbi Gutow

To experience more of Rabbi Gutow's passion for justice, please take a look at the Opinion piece he wrote at the urging of Lisa Hostein, editor of the Jewish Exponent.


JSPAN and Nine Other Organizations File Amicus Brief in Colorado Voucher Case
JSPAN and nine other organizations have filed an amicus brief in the Colorado Supreme Court arguing that under Colorado's constitutional "No aid clause", providing school vouchers that can nd will be used predominantly for parochial school education is unconstitutional. The 'no aid clause" provides: "Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian society, or for any sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever; nor shall any grant or donation of land, money or other personal property, ever be made by the state, or any such public corporation to any church, or for any sectarian purpose." The brief argues that the Colorado constitutional provision is not simply co-terminus with the federal constitution, as argued by the proponents of the vouchers, but that the no aid clause imposes a stricter standard, prohibiting the diversion of government funds from public schools to sectarian schools.




JSPAN Opposes Pennsylvania "In God We Trust" Bill
Pa. House passes 'In God We Trust' bill
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Amy Worden
June 3, 2014

The House on Monday passed a bill expressly allowing - but not requiring - school districts in Pennsylvania to post the words "In God We Trust" on school buildings.

The bill, approved by a 172-24 vote, now goes to the state Senate for consideration. Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) said that the chamber would review the bill, but that there was no timetable for passage.


[read more]

JSPAN President Deborah Weinstein has sent a letter on behalf of JSPAN to the Pennsylvania Senate leadership, opposing enactment of the legislation by the Senate. In her letter, President Weinstein pointed out that:

"Approving this bill would send a message to Pennsylvania schools that the legislature endorses the promotion of a religious message in a forum where the separation of church and state is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. This guarantee of separation of church and state in public education is increasingly important as the Commonwealth becomes more and more diverse from a religious perspective."


The Second-Largest Religion in Each State
The Washington Post
Reid Wilson
June 4, 2014

Christianity is by far the largest religion in the United States; more than three-quarters of Americans identify as Christians. A little more than half of us identify as Protestants, about 23 percent as Catholic and about 2 percent as Mormon.

But what about the rest of us? In the Western U.S., Buddhists represent the largest non-Christian religious bloc in most states. In 20 states, mostly in the Midwest and South, Islam is the largest non-Christian faith tradition. And in 15 states, mostly in the Northeast, Judaism has the most followers after Christianity. Hindus come in second place in Arizona and Delaware, and there are more practitioners of the Baha'i faith in South Carolina than anyone else.


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Children on the Run
The New York Times
The Editorial Board
June 4, 2014

Along the southern border, particularly in Texas, a rising influx of young unauthorized migrants crossing the border with their parents - or, more alarmingly, alone - has overwhelmed the Border Patrol and sent the federal government scurrying for a coordinated response. Its first action was the right one: the creation of a top-level task force including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services to care for the unaccompanied children.

It is unclear what will happen next to stem the flow or to resolve the uncertain status of the young arrivals, many of whom may have legitimate claims to stay as refugees. But administration officials, custodians of a tenacious deportation policy, deserve credit for recognizing that this is not a border-security crisis but a humanitarian one, fueled by growing violence and instability in the countries feeding the influx: Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.


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Children Go To Back Of Visa Line When Turn 21 , Supreme Court Says
Huffington Post
Sam Hananel
June 09,2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that most immigrant children who have become adults during their parents' years-long wait to become legal permanent residents of the United States should go to the back of the line in their own wait for visas.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices sided with the Obama administration in finding that immigration laws offer relief only to a tiny percentage of children who "age out" of the system when they turn 21. The majority - tens of thousands of children- no longer qualify for the immigration status granted to minors.

The case is unusual in that it pitted the administration against immigration reform advocates who said government officials were misreading a law intended to keep families together by preventing added delays for children seeking visas.


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Faith Leaders Condemn States Blocking Medicaid Expansion: 'This Is People's Lives At Stake
The Huffington Post
Shadee Ashtari
May 29,2014

Faith leaders called Thursday on the Republican governors and lawmakers in the 24 states refusing to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act to forsake their political agendas and address the larger "moral crisis" leaving millions of low-income Americans uninsured.

"History has not been kind to governors who stand in front of schoolhouse doors because the children are not the right kind of children, and history will not be kind to governors who stand in front of hospital doors and clinics because people who are trying to get in are deemed politically dispensable," Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, said during a conference call with reporters Thursday, according to the Associated Baptist Press.


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Questions To Ask Ourselves About Sgt. Bergdahl
The debate about the worthiness of his release will shape future policy.
The Wall Street Journal
William A. Galston
JUNE 11, 2014

'Was He Worth It?" That is this week's Time magazine cover story about the American soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed by the Taliban in Afghanistan in exchange for five of their commanders held by the U.S. Some people think that's the wrong question. Other questions might be appropriate, but surely "was he worth it?" is among them. It's also a question with a venerable history.

Last Saturday, Rabbi Ethan Seidel of the Tifereth Israel synagogue in Washington, D.C., carefully led his congregation through the basic arguments within the Jewish tradition. On one side, there is the well-known Talmudic maxim: "Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world." The philosopher Immanuel Kant secularized that insight into the principle of the infinite worth of every human being-the foundation of the contemporary human-rights doctrine. From that standpoint, we are forbidden to take into account either numbers or costs: One human being is worth as much as five or 50 or 500, and considerations of money or resources are irrelevant.

On the other side of the debate, the Talmud also says that, "One does not redeem captives for more than they are worth, to prevent abuses [that is, for the good order of the world]." The principal abuse to be avoided: the incentive that an excessive price will give potential captors to seize more hostages for whom the community as a whole will be responsible.


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Could Henry Ford Have Dreamed a Jew Would Run His Car Company?
The Forward
By Joseph R. Szczesny
May 27, 2014

In a company where the top jobs frequently go to graduates of Midwestern engineering schools - or to heirs of the founding family - Mark Fields's rise to the top of Ford Motor Co. was hardly a sure thing.

But then, in an earlier era, when the Fields family name was Finkelman and the name of the company's leader was Henry Ford, the odds would have been nil, or worse.

Just as Finkelman became Fields, however, the automaker founded by one of America's most notorious anti-Semites has transformed itself over the decades. When Ford named Fields as its president and CEO on May 1, the 53-year-old executive became not just the first Jew to run that company, but also the first Jew to head any of the major U.S. automakers.


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Minimum Wage: Who Makes It?
The New York Times
Jared Bernstein
June 9, 2014

Minimum-wage increases could appear on the ballot in as many as 34 states this year. President Obama has also proposed increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10, from $7.25. Who makes the minimum wage, and who would be affected by any of the proposed increases?

All the statistics here apply to those who would be affected by the proposed increase to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. The analysis also includes a number of workers making slightly above $10.10, who, history suggests, would receive a raise if the minimum wage were increased.

Minimum-wage workers are older than they used to be. Their average age is 35, and 88 percent are at least 20 years old. Half are older than 30, and about a third are at least 40.

These patterns are somewhat new. In 1979, 27 percent of low-wage workers (those making $10.10 per hour or less in today's dollars) were teenagers, compared with 12 percent in 2013, according to John Schmitt and Janelle Jones They're split fairly evenly between full-timers and part-timers. Most - 54 percent - work full-time schedules (at least 35 hours per week), and another 32 percent work at least half time (20-34 hours per week).

Many have kids. About one-quarter (27 percent) of these low-wage workers are parents, compared with 34 percent of all workers. In all, 19 percent of children in the United States have a parent who would benefit from the increase. One in eight lives in a high-income household. About 12 percent of those who would gain from an increase to $10.10 live in households with incomes above $100,000. This group highlights the fact that the minimum wage is not nearly as well targeted toward poverty reduction as the earned-income tax credit, a wage subsidy whose receipt, unlike the minimum wage, is predicated on family income.


[read more]



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JSPAN Officers
Deborah Weinstein

Judah Labovitz
Vice President

Richard I. Malkin
M.D., Vice President

Kenneth R. Myers
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Burt Siegel
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Jay Meadway

David Gutin
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Policy Center Chair

Stewart Weintraub
General Counsel

Rabbi George Stern
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Margot Horwitz
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Jill Katz Zipin
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Judah Labovitz
Ken Myers
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Ira Goldberg




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