May 2, 2014


JSPAN Newsletter - May 2, 2014

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: May 2, 2014
JSPAN Board Approves Resolution on Philadelphia Minimum Wage Legislation; Rally on May 8
When Philadelphia voters go to the polls on May 20, they will have the important opportunity to vote on a provision that would raise the minimum wage to $10.88 for many employees working on City projects. Issue #1 on the ballot would extend the power of City Council to require that companies that do business with the City or that receive grants from the City pass along the minimum wage and benefits requirements to their subcontractors or to their own grant recipients. At its meeting on April 28, the JSPAN Board of Directors approved a policy statement urging City of Philadelphia voters to cast votes in favor of Ballot Issue #1 on the primary election ballot this month, as follows: "WHEREAS, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, acting on universal Jewish values, has a long tradition of supporting living wages for all workers;

"WHEREAS, the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides taught that enabling people to support themselves is the highest form of charity;

"WHEREAS, an increase in mandated wages would allow men and women in entry-level jobs to be less reliant on government and private assistance programs and to become more self-sufficient;

"WHEREAS, nearly 88 percent of minimum wage workers are adults at least 20 years of age, and nearly 35 percent are at least 40 years old,many supporting families;

"WHEREAS, the City of Philadelphia Charter already includes provisions for City Council to set minimum wage and benefit requirements for companies that do business with the City or that receive grants from the City;

"WHEREAS, Issue #1 on the May 20, 2014, ballot would extend the power of City Council to require that companies that do business with the City or that receive grants from the City pass along the minimum wage and benefits requirements to their subcontractors or to their own grant recipients;

"NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Jewish Social Policy Action Network urges City of Philadelphia voters to cast votes in favor of Ballot Issue #1, which would raise wages of affected workers to a minimum of $10.88 per hour ..."

At its February meeting the JSPAN Board ado[ted a resolution endorsing an increase in the federal minimum wage. We stated at that time:

Deuteronomy 15:11 commands us to open our hand "to the poor and needy kinsman in your land." Though the Torah recognizes that we cannot necessarily eliminate all poverty, we are taught that we must work to alleviate its impact. Making sure the poor are provided for is a responsibility for society as well as for the individual. While we are commanded to give tzedakah and to "provide for the poor according to their needs," (Katubot 67b), our tradition also teaches us that it is more important to help a person become self-sufficient than it is to give that person a handout. Maimonides taught that enabling people to support themselves is the highest form of charity.

An increase in the federal minimum wage would allow men and women in entry-level jobs to be less reliant on government and private assistance programs and to become more self-sufficient.

Join a rally for an increase in the Pennsylvania minimum wage on May 8, 2014. The rally is sponsored by RaisetheWagePA, which will hold rallies that day across the state. - Ed.


Creating a Two-Speed Internet
New York Times
April 24, 2014

Dividing traffic on the Internet into fast and slow lanes is exactly what the Federal Communications Commission would do with its proposed regulations, unveiled this week. And no amount of reassurances about keeping competition alive will change that fact.

Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the commission, is proposing that broadband providers - phone and cable companies - be allowed to charge fees for faster delivery of video and other data to consumers. This would be a totally new approach to Internet service. It would essentially give broadband companies the right to create the digital equivalent of high-occupancy vehicle lanes for content providers, like Netflix and Amazon, wealthy enough to pay a toll.

In this new world, smaller content providers and start-ups that could not pay for preferential treatment might not be able to compete because their delivery speeds would be much slower. And consumers would have to pay more because any company that agrees to strike deals with phone and cable companies would undoubtedly pass on those costs to their users.


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The proposal by the FCC to establish two classes of service on the Internet has resulted in large volumes of heated comment, primarily from opponents of this change. JSPAN makes heavy use of the Internet as our main communication link with members, as well as internally among our Board and Officers. For the New York Times and other major media today, the internet is an important element of their business plans. The smooth and effective functioning of the Internet is important to us, not just for what it does for JSPAN,but particularly for its availability and important impacts on the general community. Therefore JSPAN plans to study the FCC proposal and consider taking a position on it. We invite your comments and suggestions to - Ed.



Affirmative Action Takes a Beating
By Adam Liptak
New York Times
April 22, 2014

WASHINGTON - In a fractured decision that revealed deep divisions over what role the judiciary should play in protecting racial and ethnic minorities, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state's public universities.

The 6-to-2 ruling effectively endorsed similar measures in seven other states. It may also encourage more states to enact measures banning the use of race in admissions or to consider race-neutral alternatives to ensure diversity. States that forbid affirmative action in higher education, like Florida and California, as well as Michigan, have seen a significant drop in the enrollment of black and Hispanic students in their most selective colleges and universities.




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Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America
by Sheryl Cashin (Beacon Press 2013). Reviewed by Richard D. Kahlenberg
The New Republic - Book Review
April 27 2014

In Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America, Cashin calls racial preferences a crude instrument that tends to benefit wealthy students of color; alienates working-class whites who should be part of the progressive alliance; and is, in any event, legally and politically unsustainable. Skillfully blending her personal story as an upper-middle-class black professional with a wide range of research on what constitute the biggest barriers to success today, Cashin provides a compelling blueprint for a new, much stronger, form of affirmative action based on actual disadvantage.

Many proponents of affirmative action, like Justice Marshall, cite high poverty rates among minority students in part to paint a sympathetic picture of applicants who have overcome obstacles. But in practice, Cashin notes, universities "create optical blackness but little socioeconomic diversity." She cites Walter Benn Michaels's suggestion that the war over affirmative action is a battle "over what skin color the rich kids have." Cashin notes that today, the achievement gap by income is twice the size of the gap by race, and that affluent parents spend nine times as much money developing the talents of their children as low-income parents.


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Perelman Teachers Continue Fight with Board
AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten Statement
April 28, 2014

WASHINGTON-"As a Jew who grew up in the Conservative movement and a union leader, I'm appalled at what has transpired at the Perelman Jewish Day School. Management has taken it upon itself to strip the educators of their voice and their union, in direct violation of core tenets of our faith honoring the treatment of our workers and our teachers. The rights to association and to organize are fundamental to a just and democratic society. What message does it send to our students and their parents when a Jewish day school violates these precepts by destroying a union that's been in place for four decades?

"No doubt the Perelman school will assemble its students for a Passover seder to tell the communal story of the journey from oppression and slavery in Egypt to liberation. I call on the Perelman school to change its own Passover story and, instead of oppressing its teachers, to reverse its decision to strip teachers of their union."


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JSPAN has previously expressed to the Perelman Jewis Day School Board that its actions have not been justified to the public or its staff.The American Federation of Teachers has now filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the teachers at Perelman.

Although it is reported that the teachers have signed individual employment contracts with the Board, the teachers union is arguing that this happened under duress, with the threat that jobs would be posted if the teachers did not sign. Both commentators and the union recognize the possibility that the NLRB might decline the case under the "ministerial exception," a rule designed to protect the right of free exercise of religion from government entanglement.- Ed.


Observing Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day: a Visit to Belarus
By Zane Busby
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
November 18, 2013

I leave the sound stage in a limousine headed for LAX. I am on hiatus, a break from directing sitcoms. I fly to Eastern Europe. My crew flies to Maui. They ride the waves in the Pacific. I ride a horse-drawn hay-cart in Belarus, searching for villages where a century ago, my grandparents were born.

The Belorussian driver speaks no English. I speak no Russian. I look around. I am back in time 100 years - no cars, no restaurants, entire villages empty, abandoned, rotting away. The driver stops his horse, points to me, and yells, "Billy Crystal." I have no idea why. He smiles. I smile. He laughs. I laugh. The horse laughs. We continue on. And so begins 10 days that change my life forever.

I carry a list in my pocket; eight names from Professor Dovid Katz, a Yiddish scholar in Lithuania, who had traveled across Belarus studying dialects, finding elderly survivors of the Holocaust, ill and alone and in urgent need of help. "The last of the Mohicans," he calls them. Would I visit?

I hand the driver my list. We journey through the Holocaust as we travel the same streets, cross the same rivers, pass the same forests where thousands hid and were murdered. I knock on doors. The huts are empty. Out back, survivors in their eighties and nineties struggle to dig up potatoes before the ground freezes. They need a winter food supply.

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Top Climate Expert's Sensational Claim of Government Meddling in Crucial UN Report
By David Rose
Daily Mail
April 26, 2014

A top US academic has dramatically revealed how government officials forced him to change a hugely influential scientific report on climate change to suit their own interests.

Harvard professor Robert Stavins electrified the worldwide debate on climate change on Friday by sensationally publishing a letter online in which he spelled out the astonishing interference.

He said the officials, representing ‘all the main countries and regions of the world' insisted on the changes in a late-night meeting at a Berlin conference centre two weeks ago.


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Blessings in Disguise - Uncovering New Religious Rights
by Kelefa Sanneh
The New Yorker
May 5, 2014

One of the surprises of President Obama's second term has been the prominence of a question that seemed peripheral to his first: the meaning of religious freedom. For years, opponents of the Affordable Care Act framed their objections in terms of economic freedom, but now some of the most noticeable challenges are coming from Christian groups who oppose the law's contraception-coverage requirement. In January, the Supreme Court extended a temporary injunction for the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order that objects to having to file a form to obtain a religious exemption from the requirement. (When an organization files, the government effectively subsidizes its insurance provider, so that the employees' contraception is still covered.) The Supreme Court will soon hand down a decision in the case of Hobby Lobby, the craft-store chain that strives to operate "in a manner consistent with Biblical principles." One of those principles, in Hobby Lobby's view, forbids it to pay for those contraceptives which it considers tantamount to abortion. If the Court rules in the store's favor, the decision would be a small setback for the A.C.A. But it would be a big advance for the religious-freedom movement, which wants courts to recognize that for-profit corporations can be believers, too.

The argument over same-sex marriage is likewise shifting. Last year, when Charles J. Cooper appeared before the Court to defend California's ban on same-sex marriage, his argument was scrupulously secular.


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