May 2016


JSPAN Newsletter - May 2016

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In this Issue:
Newsletter: May 2016
JSPAN Honors Allyson Schwartz with 2016 Social Justice Award: Speaker JoAnne Fischer Lauds Her Good Works
On May 12, at a reception in the ballroom of the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia, JSPAN conferred its 2016 Social Justice Award on Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz for her many contributions serving the best interests of women, children, families and the underserved, and her commitment to ensuring security, opportunity and justice for all. Guest Speaker JoAnne Fischer, Executive Director of the Maternity Care Coalition, who first met Allyson 40 years ago in a seminar on women's issues at Bryn Mawr College, captivated an enthusiastic audience as she lauded Allyson and celebrated her accomplishments. Many thanks to the committee that worked to create this event, including especially Co-Chairs Ruth Damsker, Neil Deegan and Jill Katz Zipin. To read speaker Fischer's speech,


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Speakers Brief JSPAN Board on Critical U.S. Immigration Policy Issues Arising from World-Wide Refugee Crisis
Leaders of three immigration and refugee advocacy organizations, Sundrop Carter, Director of Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC), Peter Pedemonti, Director of New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, and Judi Bernstein-Baker, Director of HIAS-PA, recently updated JSPAN Board members on pressing immigration policy issues. They related disturbing stories of those caught in a maelstrom of fear and xenophobia currently inflamed by a deluge of political rhetoric, as they briefed the JSPAN Board on critical U.S. immigration policy issues arising from the world-wide refugee crisis.

Under the leadership of JSPAN Immigration Policy Center Chair Marlena Kleit, JSPAN has recently stepped up its education and advocacy efforts by encouraging humane and welcoming immigration policy that supports U.S. refugee resettlement programs; opposing stopping, pausing or restricting funding for Syrian and other refugees; urging the government to end raids targeting asylum seekers; encouraging support for Philadelphia as a sanctuary city and focusing the attention of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services on the need to fund childcare for recent refugee arrivals.

JSPAN also recently co-sponsored with Congregation Adath Jeshurun an educational program on Jewish perspectives on U.S. immigration, and devoted the 2016 JSPAN Haggadah Supplement to the immigration crisis. We have endorsed HIAS-PA's Welcome Campaign, calling on congregations and communities to welcome refugees, and the New Sanctuary Movement's Driver's Licenses for All campaign described below.

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JSPAN Endorses PA Campaign for Driver's Licenses for All: Here's How You Can Help
JSPAN's Board recently voted to endorse Alianza Pro Licencias PA (Alliance for Licenses PA). We are supporting--and encourage you to work to enact--Pennsylvania House Bill 1450, introduced by Representative Mark Cohen (D), which will provide unmarked driver's licenses to undocumented residents. This legislation would allow undocumented immigrants to show an IRS-issued tax ID number (ITIN) and/or a combination of documents proving their identity instead of a Social Security card. All other requirements for obtaining a driver's license (proving PA residency, purchasing car insurance and passing a driver's test) would remain intact. Twelve states in the U.S. already provide driver's licenses to eligible immigrants. We call on Pennsylvania's elected officials to follow the example of these states and offer an unmarked driver's license for all. To learn more and show your support for this campaign, contact New Sanctuary Movement at


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Board Meeting: Meet JSPAN Board Member Ilana Goldfus
By Edward Hoffman

Meet new Board Member Ilana Goldfus, a fund-raiser at Greene Street Friends School, a Quaker school in Germantown. Ilana met her husband at Habonim Dror Camp Galil where she started as a summer camper at age 11, and later worked there as Assistant Director. She grew up in New Jersey, became a bat mitzvah at Adath Israel Congregation in Lawrenceville, and "didn't learn to pump gas" until she was 21. Among causes that interest her are women's rights and reproductive freedom, inequality and racism. With a very diverse family racially and working at a school with a diverse student body, Ilana says she can "see that it can work; people can all be together and respect each other and learn from and grow with each other, and we can all benefit from that."


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Take Action: JSPAN Urges You to Support HB 1336 and SB 44, the Merit Selection Bills
JSPAN Board has long supported efforts to improve the independence of the judiciary by substituting merit selection for the present system of having candidates run for office in partisan elections. At its May meeting, the JSPAN Board voted to support PA House Bill 1336 and Senate Bill 44, merit selection bills currently pending in the PA General Assembly. The bills would establish a bipartisan Appellate Court Nominating Commission to evaluate candidates for appointment to the judiciary and recommend the five most qualified, reflecting the geographic, racial, ethnic, gender and other diversity in the Commonwealth. Coming on the heels of several judicial scandals and the most expensive appellate court election in the state's history, the time is right for Pennsylvania to embrace merit selection. Show your support! Click below to be redirected to the Philadelphia Bar Association's website, where in under a minute you can send letters to your local legislators, encouraging them to support HB 1336 and SB 44.


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Nothing Succeeds Like Success: Advocacy Efforts Pay Off as PA Legalizes Medical Marijuana
On April 17th, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill legalizing marijuana use-in pill, oil, vapor, liquid or topical form for 17 qualifying diagnosed conditions. By signing the legislation, Gov. Tom Wolf put the Commonwealth in the company of 23 other states plus the District of Columbia that have legalized marijuana for medical use. JSPAN has long been a strong and active advocate for legalization of medical marijuana in the Commonwealth. Representatives of JSPAN, among them current Board members Ruth Damsker and Brian Gralnick, have provided expert testimony on this issue and assisted in drafting legislation. Congratulations to all of you who encouraged support for legalizing medical marijuana and urged our state legislators and Governor Wolf to act in favor of this important legislation (and we're not just blowing smoke!).


Army Rules Sikh Officer Can Keep His Turban, Beard on Active Duty
As reported below, the long fight for Army Capt. Singh to obtain a religious accommodation to keep his turban and beard has ended. The JSPAN Board encouraged the government to grant Singh's request by sending letters of support to the Secretary of Defense, the several Armed Services secretaries, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.-Ed.
The Huffington Post
By Antonia Blumberg
April 1, 2016

A Sikh army captain who sued the U.S. military for discrimination in March has won the right to continue serving on active duty while upholding his religiously mandated turban and beard. The U.S. Army released its decision on Thursday to grant Captain Simratpal Singh "religious accommodation" to the rules against facial hair and headwear, adding that "the Army intends to gather information to develop uniform standards for religious accommodations."

"My military service continues to fulfill a lifelong dream," Singh, a West Point graduate who earned a Bronze Star in Afghanistan, said in a press release. "My faith, like many of the soldiers I work with, is an integral part of who I am. I am thankful that I no longer have to make the choice between faith and service to our nation."

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Welcome New Executive Committee & Officers
Welcome to JSPAN's new Executive Committee Members and Officers: Katie Beran, Vice President
Ruth Damsker, Vice President
Rabbi Seth Goren, Vice President
Edward Hoffman, Assistant Treasurer
Members at Large: Burt Siegel, Jeff Pasek and Deborah Weinstein

Many thanks also to continuing Executive Committee Members and Officers: Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom, President; Mark Stier, Vice President; Jill Katz Zipin, Vice President; Joanna Klein, Secretary; George Pomerantz, Treasurer; and Stuart Weintraub, General Counsel.



Jews of Color Get Personal and Political at First Ever Gathering
The Forward
By Sigal Samuel
May 4, 2016

If you want to get black Jews, Mizrahi Jews and a Palestinian-American Muslim to burst into tears at the same time, invite Yavilah McCoy to talk about hair. Speaking at the opening plenary of the Jews of Color National Convening , which took place May 1-3 in Manhattan, McCoy gestured at the woman beside her, a fellow black Jewish leader named April Baskin . "I was there one night when she was just a girl and she was crying with joy on the shoulder of another black woman, because that was the first time she'd worn her hair in a full afro in a Jewish space - the first time she felt like she could show up as her full self."

Hearing this memory brought to life, Baskin teared up and diverted her gaze from the 100-plus Jews of color who had piled into the synagogue sanctuary at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, which hosted the conference.

But McCoy wasn't done. She turned to the audience and said, "Everyone here needs to hear this: You are beautiful. You are gorgeous. Anyone who told you otherwise was lying in the name of white supremacy."


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Constitutional Limits on Civil Forfeiture Reviewed by High Court
A little-known process called civil asset forfeiture allows the government to take property it suspects has been used in criminal activity-even if the owner has never been convicted or accused of a crime. JSPAN has joined with the ACLU and other groups in calling for an immediate change in the PA Commonwealth's asset forfeiture laws. We support SB 869, a bill which would provide much needed reform by setting clear and uniform procedures for using asset forfeiture, postponing forfeiture until conviction, ensuring that property owners have adequate procedural protections, and eliminating the profit motive by requiring that all proceeds from forfeiture go into a general government fund. The article below reports on the PA Supreme Court's review of the law of civil forfeiture in a Philadelphia case.-Ed.


The Legal Intelligencer
By Ben Seal
May 13, 2016

In a case that could broadly affect government seizures of personal property in Pennsylvania, the state's high court heard arguments last week over the constitutionality of civil forfeiture involving individuals with no criminal culpability.

In Commonwealth v. 1997 Chevrolet, the justices reviewed the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office's taking of Elizabeth Young's West Philadelphia home and her car as punishment for her negligence in allowing her son to sell drugs on the property.

The Commonwealth Court "took it upon itself to rewrite the law of forfeiture" when it ruled in Young's case that forfeiture should be limited to "instrumentalities" of a criminal offense and declared her an "innocent owner" despite her knowledge that drugs were being sold on her property, Jonathan Levy of the District Attorney's Office argued. Jessica Anthony of Ballard Spahr, arguing on behalf of Young, said the property owner's culpability needs to be considered and weighed against her punishment.


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JSPAN Officers
Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom

Katie Beran, Vice President
Ruth Damsker, Vice President
Rabbi Seth Goren, Vice President
Burt Siegel
Vice President

Marc Stier
Vice President

Jill Katz Zipin
Vice President

Joanna Klein

George Pomerantz

Edward Hoffman, Assistant Treasurer
Stewart Weintraub
General Counsel

Rabbi George Stern
Executive Director

Brian Gralnick
Past President

Deborah Weinstein
Past President

Irwin Aronson
Lauren Beller
Adam Bonin
William Epstein
Adam Garber
Ilana Goldfus
Margot Horwitz
Andrea Jacobs
Adrienne Jacoby
Babette Josephs
Rebecca Kirzner
Nathan Kleinman
Marlena Kleit
Judah Labovitz
Ruth Laibson
Jonathan Lipson
Richard Malkin
Theodore Mann
Jeffrey Pasek
Audrey Ann Ross
J. Sanford Schwartz
Bryan Schwartzman
Daniel Segal
Dan Siegel
Sena Singer
Rabbi David Straus
Lynn Zeitlin z"l


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.

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