March 21, 2014


JSPAN Newsletter - March 21, 2014

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: March 21, 2014
Jewish Groups on Both Sides of Hobby Lobby Case
By Dmitriy Shapiro/ Jewish Week
March 18, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments March 25 on two prominent cases that could have far-reaching effects on Jewish-owned businesses and their employees. Both challenge the legality of an Affordable Care Act mandate requiring firms with more than 50 employees to provide contraception coverage as part of their insurance policies. Jewish organizations have staked out positions on both sides of the issue, filing amicus briefs in what has become the Hobby Lobby case and a similar suit invoking religious freedom protections on the one hand and reproductive rights on the other.

A national chain of arts and crafts stores operating as a closely held corporation by the Green family, Hobby Lobby was founded by the family's patriarch David Green, a devout Christian, in the 1970s. He and his children, who claim to run it in adherence to biblical principles, are challenging the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) and its secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, for what they see as the new health law's undue burden on religious businesses. The case mirrors elements of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. vs. Sebelius, a case that deals with a Menonite-owned wood cabinet manufacturer in Pennsylvania. The court linked the cases; attorneys will argue both simultaneously on March 25.

The Hobby Lobby owners' "sincere religious beliefs prohibit them from covering four out of twenty FDA-approved contraceptives in their self-funded health plan,"* the retailers 'attorneys wrote in their brief to the court.


[read more]

JSPAN has submitted an amicus curiae brief before the Supreme Court, urging that the Affordable Care Act insurance mandate be upheld against the challenge by for-profit corporations. Our brief has received favorable comment in the U.S. Justice Department brief to the Court. We look forward to the oral argument next week in Washington D.C.. - Ed.


JSPAN Supports Nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy
In a letter to the region's Senators, JSPAN President Deborah Weinstein, Esq. has expressed the agency's support of the nomination of Dr. Vivek H. Murthy to be the next Surgeon General of the United States. The gun lobby has attacked the nomination because of the candidate's reported support for limits on ammunition purchases, semiautomatic firearm sales, and removal of restrictions that keep the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding antigun advocacy research.

"Numerous publications, among them the New York Times and Business Week, have described the obstructionist campaign [of the gun lobby] as bizarre and dangerous. Nevertheless, the gun industry lobby has managed to convince many responsible gun owners that the highly qualified and regarded Dr. Murthy would, if appointed, use the position of Surgeon General to interfere with their Second Amendment rights. We note that in Senate hearings, Dr. Murthy has stated that he had no plans to use the post to talk about gun control," Weinstein wrote.



Sharing Values: Jewish-Muslim Seder on April 2
The Peace Islands Institute, a Turkish Muslim organization dedicated to interfaith dialogue, has announced a Jewish-Muslim seder, to take place at its offices, 1617 John F Kennedy Blvd # 821, on Wednesday, April 2, 6 to 8 p.m. A free event, the seder was enthusiastically conceived by the Institute as a way to strengthen connections between Jews and Muslims. It will include a creative Haggadah text and a Turkish-style dinner. One of the organizers is Assemblywoman Babette Josephs, a JSPAN Board member. The Seder will be led by Rabbi George Stern, JSPAN's new Executive Director. Please RSVP to him at


JSPAN Holds Two Programs Dissecting Economic Inequality
Beginning with the film "Inequality for All" starring Professor Robert Reich, and continuing with a panel discussion a week later, JSPAN has initiated its year of focus on the problems of economic inequality. The programs, held on March 9 and 16 (after a one-week snow delay), drew substantial audiences at the host site, Germantown Jewish Centre.

Inequality for All is Prof. Reich's grand statement on film of the sources, attributes and problems of economic inequality in our society. With pictures and charts, and in his own personal electric presentation, he documents an immense change in American society, particularly since 1970. For the last 70 years our economy has grown almost steadily. In the earlier period this increase in productivity was shared between growth in wages for labor and profit growth for business. Since 1970 virtually all the growth in productivity has gone to increase corporate profits, while wages have not even fully kept pace with inflation.


[read more]

Thanks to Richard Malkin, Burt Siegel and Jill Zipin of the JSPAN Board of Directors for their efforts in putting these programs together, and to Germantown Jewish Centre for hosting the event. - Ed.


Philadelphia Is in Top 10 Most Unequal Metros
Philadelphia Magazine
BY Liz Spikol
March 13, 2014

Writing for Trulia Trends and The Atlantic Cities, Trulia's CEO Jed Kolko says what the Occupy movement brought to mainstream consciousness, even as everyone derided those who soapboxed the message: "Income inequality has been growing in America, driven by technology, globalization, and other factors. It's caused tensions between the haves and have-nots, which often get played out at the local level, and these tensions have erupted into fights over housing affordability and public services."

Kolko examines income inequality in the 100 largest metros for the years 2012, 2006, 2000, and 1990. Based on collected Census data, Kolko finds that the Philadelphia metro's rich-poor gap is in the top 10 - No. 7, to be exact.


[read more]



10 Numbers that Explain Why Income Inequality is a Hot Topic
Washington Post
By Jaime Fuller
March 18 at 6:30 am

Although high-octane rhetoric on health care seems to overshadow all other political discussions in U.S. politics, income inequality and economic opportunity have crept up in speeches and policy proposals from the White House, Congress, state government, local government and academics. Here are a few reasons why.

65 percent
According to a Pew Research poll from December 2013, that's the number of Americans who think the income gap between the rich and the poor has grown in the last three years. Of those 65 percent of respondents, only 3 percent think that's a good thing. A month later, President Obama geared a large part of his State of the Union address toward that 65 percent of the population:

The problem is that alongside increased inequality, we've seen diminished levels of upward mobility in recent years. A child born in the top 20 percent has about a 2-in-3 chance of staying at or near the top. A child born into the bottom 20 percent has a less than 1-in-20 shot at making it to the top. He's 10 times likelier to stay where he is.


[read more]



Brave New Films: Higher Ed, Not Debt
One segment of our society that is disproportionately facing unemployment, debt load and powerlessness is our youth who are considering college, going to college, or recently graduated. Issues today include whether taking on the high cost of a private college education is worthwhile, how much student tuition debt accumulates during college, and how the debt affects lives after graduation. Here is an excellent video seeking to expand understanding of the true dimension of the economic difficulties facing many of these young people and their families. – Ed.


Paul Ryan's Irish Amnesia
New York Times
By Timothy Egan
March 15, 2014

In advance of St. Patrick's Day, I went time traveling, back to the 1840s and Ireland's great famine. On one side of the Irish Sea was Victorian England, flush with the pomp and prosperity of the world's mightiest empire. On the other side were skeletal people, dying en masse, the hollow-bellied children scrounging for nettles and blackberries.

A great debate raged in London: Would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a "culture of dependency"? Certainly England's man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. "Dependence on charity," he declared, "is not to be made an agreeable mode of life."

And there I ran into Paul Ryan. His great-great-grandfather had fled to America. But the Republican congressman was very much in evidence, wagging his finger at the famished.

[read more]


Silicon Valley's Youth Problem
New York Times
By Yiren Lu
March 12, 2014

In start-up land, the young barely talk to the old (and vice versa). That makes for a lot of cool apps. But great technology?

Not so much.

[T]hroughout Silicon Valley, ... companies like Intel post disappointing earnings reports and others like Snapchat turn down billion-dollar offers. The rapid consumer-ification of tech, led by Facebook and Google, has created a deep rift between old and new, hardware and software, enterprise companies that sell to other businesses and consumer companies that sell directly to the masses. On their face, these cleavages seem to be part of the natural order. As Biswas pointed out, "There has always been a constant churn of new companies coming in, old companies dying out."

But the churn feels more problematic now, in part because it deprives the new guard as well as the old - and by extension, it deprives us all. In pursuing the latest and the coolest, young engineers ignore opportunities in less-sexy areas of tech like semiconductors, data storage and networking, the products that form the foundation on which all of Web 2.0 rests.

[read more]



Dangerous (Grading) Curves Ahead
JSPAN supports equality and opposes all discrimination in our economy on the basis of sex. The following article suggests an unexpected source of differential outcomes in our society, based on unique sociological research. - Ed.

Washington Post
By Catherine Rampell
March 11, 2014

My column today looks at whether women are too myopic about their grades, and are letting tough grading curves scare them away from lucrative fields like engineering, math, computer science and economics. Here's some more detail on one of the ongoing academic projects examining this question.

Claudia Goldin, a labor economist at Harvard, began with questions about why so few women majored in economics. ... Goldin looked at the grading data for economics classes in an (anonymous) large research institution. She found that grades received in the introductory economics course - let's call it Econ 101 - had a strong influence on whether women chose to major in economics.

Her findings are in the chart below, which shows the share of students who received a given Econ 101 grade who then go on to pick economics as their major.



[read more]


Harvard's Ben Edelman, Web Sheriff, May Have a Conflict or Two
Ben Edelman is the nephew of famed civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman and her husband, Prof. Peter Edelman who addressed our Social Justice Award reception in 2011. - Ed.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek
By John Hechinger
March 13, 2014

Benjamin Edelman knew his way around the Internet's ethical thickets at an early age. He also knew how to make that knowledge pay. As a 19-year-old Harvard University sophomore, he earned $400 an hour as an expert witness, testifying for the NFL in a lawsuit against unauthorized online broadcasters. In his senior year, the American Civil Liberties Union enlisted him at $300 an hour to testify in a case challenging the government's use of website-blocking filters in libraries. "The Internet is what we make of it," he says. "We can shape it through diligence by exposing the folks who are making it less good than it ought to be."

Edelman, now 33 and in his seventh year on the faculty of Harvard Business School, writes papers on subjects including the scarcity of Web addresses and prides himself on calling out bad actors online, whether it's the government or the likes of Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB). "It's the Wild West out there, and Ben is the sheriff," says Alvin Roth, a Nobel-winning economist and Edelman's mentor. Edelman also contracts with companies such as Microsoft (MSFT) for some of his research, and those who disagree with the findings he makes public sometimes complain that he doesn't fully disclose those relationships.


[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




Support JSPAN

Remember that JSPAN welcomes your donations to help us continue our important and effective work in Tikkun Olam. You may send gifts via PayPal on or to JSPAN, 1735 Market Street, Suite #A417, Philadelphia, PA 19103




Want to Join?
To become a JSPAN member, please go to On the right side of your screen you will be able to start a secure transaction and become a member.


Make all checks payable to:
1735 Market Street, Suite #A417
Philadelphia, PA 19103


JSPAN Officers
Deborah Weinstein

Judah Labovitz
Vice President

Richard I. Malkin
M.D., Vice President

Kenneth R. Myers
Vice President

Burt Siegel
Vice President

Jay Meadway

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
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

Marlena Kleit
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.

As an organization for change, JSPAN strives to advance progressive social policies on the critical issues of our time. Help spread the news about us by forwarding this email and the link to our website to your family, friends, and colleagues who might have an interest in joining JSPAN or serving on any of JSPAN's projects. If you haven't joined JSPAN, please join now!


Click to view this email in a browser

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
1735 Market Street
Suite A417
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103

Read the VerticalResponse marketing policy.

Non-Profits Email Free with VerticalResponse!