March 2015

JSPAN Newsletter - March 2015

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In this Issue:
Newsletter: March 2015
Save the Date-"The Partisan Divide:" Two Former Congressmen Discuss How to Fix a Broken Congress
Join JSPAN on the afternoon of May 3 as two former congressional leaders, one Democratic and one Republican, discuss their powerful and important new book, "The Partisan Divide: Congress in Crisis."

While the authors, Democrat Martin Frost and Republican Tom Davis, share many common viewpoints, they come from opposite sides of the political spectrum. Davis served in Congress from 1994 to 2008 representing Virginia's 11th district. During that time, he chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee. Frost represented the Dallas-Ft. Worth area in Congress for 26 years, serving four years as Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and four years as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. Now they have joined forces to an effort "to save Congress from itself." According to Frost and Davis, Congress is incapable of reforming itself without "a good kick in the seat from the American public." Together they have developed a common sense, bipartisan plan for making our Congress function again.

More information soon to come.



Watch this Case: PA School Litigation Challenges Inadequate Funding for Public Schools
The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP) filed suit in PA Commonwealth Court on November 10, 2014 on behalf of six school districts, seven parents, and two statewide associations, against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the Governor for failing to uphold the General Assembly's constitutional obligation to provide a "thorough and efficient" system of public education. Consistent with JSPAN's support for quality public education for all students, we joined with other groups in an amicus brief, prepared by attorneys at the Jones Day law firm, arguing that this challenge to the state's failure to provide funding necessary to fulfill applicable substantive education standards, in violation of both Education Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the PA Constitution, are justiciable under Pennsylvania Supreme Court precedent. Other state courts, faced with similar constitutional challenges, have concluded that such challenges should be adjudicated.-Ed.

Education Law Center
February 26, 2015

Seven statewide groups concerned with the growing education gap for Pennsylvania schoolchildren are urging the Commonwealth Court to hear a pending challenge to the severe lack of resources and funding of the state's public schools. The lawsuit, William Penn School District, et al., v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, et al., was filed in November 2014. The complaint presents detailed facts showing that thousands of students across the state, especially those in poor communities, are being denied a "thorough and efficient" education as guaranteed by the Pennsylvania Constitution. Attorneys for the State have moved to dismiss the lawsuit. The groups filing the amici curiae brief include Public Citizens for Children and Youth, the Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses, Education Voters, Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley, the Pennsylvania Jewish Social Policy Action Network, and the Services Employees International Union Local 32BJ. The groups were joined by Education Justice, the national advocacy program at Education Law Center.


[read more]


Take Action to Reform Abusive Practice of Civil Asset Forfeiture in PA
As described in this explanation from the website of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the practice of civil asset forfeiture is greatly in need of reform. JSPAN has joined with the ACLU and other progressive organizations in a coalition advocating for stronger legal protections to prevent the government from using this practice to abuse the power to take and keep people's property. This coalition supports legislation that will soon be introduced to reform Pennsylvania forfeiture law to embody two core principles: (1) that no property should be forfeited unless the property owner is first convicted of a crime and (2) that law enforcement should not profit from enforcing forfeiture laws. This legislation also would strengthen the ability of innocent people with an interest in the property to challenge the forfeiture. You can help by signing on to the statement of the Coalition for Forfeiture Reform and by contacting your state senator and asking him or her to co-sponsor a bill that would end policing for profit in Pennsylvania (To learn how to take these actions, follow the link below at "Read more").-Ed.


In the last decade, Pennsylvania law enforcement has taken over $100 million in private property using something called "civil asset forfeiture." Originally targeted at drug kingpins and the money they made from their crimes, civil asset forfeiture is increasingly used to take homes, cars, and small amounts of cash from ordinary Pennsylvanians. Under Pennsylvania's civil asset forfeiture laws, the government can legally take property it claims is connected to illegal activity but without actually charging the property owner with, much less convicting the person of, a crime. Prosecutors and police who make decisions about when to pursue civil forfeiture are then allowed to keep 100% of the forfeiture profits for their own budgets, meaning they have a direct financial incentive to forfeit as much property as possible.

Current Pennsylvania law provides very few protections for people whose property the government is trying to forfeit. Under civil asset forfeiture, property owners do not have the constitutional protections they would receive if they had been accused of a crime, including the right to appointed counsel. Many property owners are never even notified that their property is the subject of a civil forfeiture proceeding. And some innocent owners decide not to contest forfeitures because the costs of taking time off work and paying a lawyer to challenge the forfeiture often far exceed the value of the property at stake. As a result of this unfair process, most civil forfeitures in Pennsylvania end without the property owner even appearing before a judge, allowing prosecutors to take the property without ever presenting evidence. Civil asset forfeiture also disproportionately affects low-income people of color.


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Review JSPAN Briefs to SCOTUS on Affordable Care Act and Religious Accommodation at Work
In case you missed it, JSPAN and other nonprofit organizations have joined in an amicus brief prepared under the leadership of Boston's Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA) in the case King v. Burwell now before the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief defends the Affordable Care Act against this challenge to the provision of subsidies to individual policyholders in those states that have not created state insurance exchanges.

In addition, JSPAN joined with amici American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis and Women for Reform Judaism in an amicus brief to the Court in a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) suit over Abercrombie & Fitch Store Inc.'s refusal to hire a woman who wore a headscarf but didn't mention her Muslim faith.

The Supreme Court recently heard oral argument in both of these cases. To review the briefs:


JSPAN Supports Restoring Philadelphia School Funding Cuts
We are pleased that Gov. Wolf's proposed budget takes giant steps towards restoring equity in public school funding. Overall, he has proposed almost $1 billion in additional K-12 public education funding, split between the basic education budget and special education, plus adjustments to how cyber charters are reimbursed and to the way in which charters are reimbursed for certain special education expenditures.

Philadelphia in particular would see a 13.8% increase in state funding and allow it to begin to rebuild after the devastating cuts of the past four years. But as Donna Cooper, head of Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), has stated, "Everybody should keep in mind that this doesn't make anybody whole from the 2011 cuts. There's still a long way to go. I would hope the legislature understands they're still in the process of repairing the damage."


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The Truth about Sex Trafficking---Local Jewish Organizations Invite You: "Once We Were Slaves: Understanding Modern Day Slave Trafficking in Our Community"
Join the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Women of Vision, Women's Philanthrophy and JCRC in conjunction with the National Council of Jewish Women/Greater Philadelphia, for a panel discussion: "Once We Were Slaves: Understanding Modern Day Sex Trafficking in Our Community."

Sex trafficking is modern-day slavery involving millions of people worldwide spanning all socioeconomic backgrounds. 600,000 people in the U.S. alone, 100,000 of whom are children. The Jewish community and Jewish children are not exempt from these issues.

Panel members will include Rabbi Rachel Kobrin, Congregation Adath Jeshurun, Rachel Yudi, Montgomery County Anti-Human Trafficking, Jean Spry, PA State Senator Daylin Leach and Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vertri Ferman

The program will be held at from 12-2 PM on Wednesday, April 22 at the Jewish Community Services Building, 2100 Arch Street, Philadelphia. JSPAN is proud to be among the partners supporting this important program.


[read more]


ADL Urges Supreme Court to Overturn State Marriage Bans
This just in. We are pleased to share with you the amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court submitted by ADL which JSPAN joined along with other religious groups listed in the ADL press release below. JSPAN and the other amici urge the Court---as we have in other briefs we have filed or joined on the issue of same-sex marriage-to reject efforts to impose one particular religious understanding of marriage into law. Many thanks to the law firm of Greenberg Traurig LLP for preparing the brief on behalf of ADL.-Ed.


The Anti-Defamation League
March 6, 2015

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has brought together a broad coalition of religious, cultural and civil rights organizations, representing diverse faiths, traditions and cultures, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject efforts to impose one particular religious understanding of marriage into law.

ADL filed an amicus brief in the four cases pending before the Court: Obergefell v. Hodges, Tanco v. Haslam, DeBoer v. Snyder, and Bourke v. Beshear, which challenge the constitutionality of state marriage equality bans.

"Marriage bans unconstitutionally enshrine one particular religious view of marriage into law," said Christopher Wolf, ADL Civil Rights Chair. "It is time to end discrimination against same-sex couples and for the Supreme Court to act to ensure the right to have their marriages recognized."


[read more]


Attend Jews in ALL Hues Town Hall Meeting on the Intersection of Race and Judaism
Jews in ALL Hues (JIAH) invites the Jewish community to the first of a three part series of meetings and workshops that "unpack the intersection of race and Judaism, and its impact on the lives of Jews of Color in our communities." On March 18, 2015, Jews in ALL Hues is sponsoring a town hall meeting on "The Intersection of Race and Judaism" with the goals of "starting a reparative process that acknowledges the necessity of combating racial inequality within Jewish communities" and "makes a direct connection to the struggles of other communities."

The program will be held at Temple University Center City Conference Center, 1515 Market Street in Philadelphia from 7-9 PM. JIAH is a Philadelphia-based advocacy and educational organization that supports multiple-heritage Jews (one Jewish parent, adopted Jews, Jews by choice, Jews of color and those who do not fit the 'box'), partners and allies in order to cultivate an honest culture of welcoming in the Jewish community. JSPAN joins with Operating Understanding, The Shalom Center and Repair the World as community partners supporting this event.

For more information, read more


Bioethicist: Why are Guns a Taboo Topic on the Campaign Trail?
NBC News--Health
By Arthur Caplan
February 25, 2015

Guns are a medical issue - no matter how often the NRA denies it. Eight national health groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, just released a joint statement echoing that sentiment.

But among the barrage of media questions leveled at politicians on the presidential campaign trail, no one is asking the contenders about firearms. The topic appears to be strangely and entirely off limits.

Everything else seems to be fair game. The lone question we're not hearing: What are you going to do about gun violence? This is especially incredible in light of the remarkable editorial published Tuesday in the prestigious medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine.


[read more]


1,500 Groups Urge Action Now to Protect Children's Health
Because of our concern for the health and well-being of America's children and pregnant women, we co-signed the letter described below urging Congress to take action as soon as possible to provide a four-year funding extension for Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Congress must act quickly to stabilize CHIP funding to ensure that states can continue to operate their programs without interruption. Health coverage for millions of children could be disrupted if CHIP's future is not secured.-Ed.

First Focus
By Ed Walz
February 26, 2015

Washington – Today more than 1,500 organizations sent a letter to congressional leadership urging action this year to protect the millions of children who get their health care through the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The letter was coordinated by the bipartisan national children's advocacy organization First Focus and signed by national, state, and local organizations, including organizations in every state.

"Time is quickly running out for Congress to protect the health of millions of children who count every day on the Children's Health Insurance Program," said First Focus President Bruce Lesley. "That's why so many advocates, health care providers, educators, faith leaders, and other voices have united in calling for action." As the advocates' letter details, if Congress fails to act first coverage for up to 10.2 million children could be disrupted, with millions being left uninsured. But because CHIP is a state-federal partnership, state budget officials must make decisions about the future of their states' CHIP programs well in advance of that deadline.


[read more]


PJ Voice Celebrates 10th Year
Congratulations to Philadelphia Jewish Voice, an online Jewish publication celebrating its 10th year. Founded to address the critical issues of our community in a spirit of intellectual honesty and diversity, it is read by thousands of subscribers around the world.

PJ Voice will celebrate this milestone at an event on April 30 honoring Ronit Treatman, its immediate past president. Ronit's most recent article in the Voice-one in a long-running series celebrating Jewish food from around the world-was "Spicy Hamentashen With Moses' Sauce." Other recent articles in PJ Voice have included "Where Are Republican Jews on Offensive Susan Rice Ad?"; "And The Survey Says... Plenty of Dems, GOP Are Anti-Semites"; and "The Limits of Freedom of Religion," by JSPAN founder Ken Myers.

You can check out the Philadelphia Jewish Voice and its upcoming celebration at



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JSPAN Officers
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Interim President

Richard Malkin
First Vice President

Burt Siegel
Vice President

Marc Stier
Vice President

Jill Katz Zipin
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Joanna Klein

George Pomerantz

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Edward Hoffman
Margot Horwitz
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Audrey Ann Ross
J. Sanford Schwartz
Bryan Schwartzman
Daniel Segal
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Ilene Wasserman

Ira Goldberg


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