May 30, 2014

JSPAN Newsletter - May 30, 2014

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue: Happy Shavuot
Newsletter: May 30, 2014
JCPA Chief Steve Gutow will Speak at JSPAN Annual Meeting

Please join the Jewish Social Policy Action Network on Sunday, June 8, for its 10th Annual Meeting featuring guest speaker, Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, (JCPA) the coordinating body for 16 national Jewish agencies and 125 local Jewish community relations councils and federations. A graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbincal Collge, Gutow is a rabbi, lawyer and activist. Learn more about this dynamic and passionate speaker here.

This year's program is proudly presented in co-sponsorship with the Philadelphia Jewish Community Relations Council, local council member of the JCPA. The program will be held on Sunday, June 8, from 7-9 PM at The Philadelphian, 2401 Pennsylvania Avenue, Philadelphia.

JSPAN Founder Ted Mann, a current Board member of both JCPA and JSPAN, will introduce Rabbi Gutow, his long-time friend and colleague.

Seating is limited. For more information and to make a reservation, contact


Primary Election: Running Uphill in a Gerrymandered District
JSPAN Board member Brian Gralnick mounted a campaign for a seat in the Pennsylvania State Senate in a district half suburban (Montgomery County) and half urban (Philadelphia). Here are his reflections on the time, money and dedication required for a newcomer to make a serious run for office in a contested primary. - Ed..

Q. Tell us about your election race.

A. Pennsylvania Senate District 4 had three Democratic candidates in the primary, the incumbent LeAnna Washington, a Township Commissioner from Cheltenham Township and me.

Q. Running in an election can be hard work and always presents the possibility of defeat and rejection. Helping people can be done in many ways less difficult than running for office. Was there a particular reason you wanted to enter this election race?

A. For much of my adult life I have worked in state government or on state issues, including in State Representative Larry Curry's district office. Since then I have worked for the United Way to help people, and more recently, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia I have staffed and managed a $5 million program of grants to social welfare and social service agencies.

But the return on investment makes it worth the work and effort that I put into the election. A state senator has input to a $ 27 billion budget just in state money. And to exercise power in a legislative body without term limits, you develop power over years in order to bring a lot of resources back to your district.

Q. How did your family take your decision to run?

A. They knew that I was considering this for some time, and they were very very supportive. They got hundreds of signatures for my petition and were very helpful all along. They worked for me on Election Day at voting stations.


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Jones' Same-Sex Marriage Decision Shows Judges Can Bridge Cultural Divides
The Legal Intelligencer
Hank Greezlak
May 27, 2014

Some judges have a good sense of history when dealing with big cases. Rather than passing the buck to a higher court, or puffing up and delivering self-indulgent decisions, they write an opinion that not only makes important law, but makes it easier for society to absorb historical shifts. That's exactly what U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III did when he ruled Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. Almost equally as important as what Jones ruled in Whitewood v. Wolf was how he ruled.

The language was simple and clear. He talked about the real-world negative impact suffered by same-sex couples in not being able to marry-having to go through adoptions for children they've chosen (or their partners have given birth to) to raise; being unable to be at their partner's side in times of sickness; being unable to leave to them the property they've built together when one of them dies; the negative messages given to their children.


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Gay Marriage: Part of a Bigger Picture
Ken Myers, Board member of JSPAN and one of the editors of this newsletter, wrote the following comment on the cases in Pennsylvania and elsewhere empowering gay marriage. It appeared this week in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice. - Ed.

The elimination of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the parallel provision on the Marriage Law in Pennsylvania expand gay rights and bestow important benefits on GLBTQ communities. But in addition, this line of cases has broadened the circumstances in which discrimination will be inferred in facially "neutral" governmental action, and has broadened the application of the doctrine of equal protection of the law.

The virtually lightning fast victory of the gay movement over the hindrance of the "Defense of Marriage Act" and similar state laws is impressive, and surely to many people, startling. After all, the proposition that marriage is between a man and a woman, was with us for a long time.

Family law, the body of common law principles and statutes controlling marriage, adoption, divorce, support and custody issues, has been a subject of state law. Moreover, it is an area in which the states have been permitted to experiment and apply highly individual approaches.

Until late in the last century, battles arose primarily in state legislatures over divorce laws. For decades trips to Reno or Mexico were common parts of a divorce "package." Afterwards lawyers fought cases over the question of jurisdiction: if one of two married people travels to a place far from the marital home, is the divorce decree obtained there really binding?


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JSPAN has participated in cases fighting for marriage equality for the LGBT community here, in other federal circuits and in the Supreme Court. We extend congratulations to the people who have waited a great deal of time for this liberation from outdated laws. - Ed.



Off-Year Elections (This is One) are Decided by the People who Don't Vote
The New Republic
By Sasha Issenberg
April 4, 2014

In late February, Barack Obama stood before a room of his party's governors at a Washington fund-raiser and offered a new explanation for the Republican rout that claimed the jobs of more than 750 Democratic officeholders around the country in 2010. At the time, the president had described the outcome, simply and indelibly, as a "shellacking," but here he ventured a deeper analysis. "We know how to win national elections," he told the crowd. "But all too often it's during these midterms where we end up getting ourselves into trouble, because I guess we don't think it's sexy enough."

Beyond the narcissism implied-the suggestion that any ballot without his name on it lacks a certain magnetism-Obama was onto something. Current conventional wisdom holds that Democrats' prospects this November are grim. After the obligatory acknowledgment that the party in the White House almost always loses ground in off-year elections, the most commonly cited reasons are situational-the botched Obamacare rollout, a zealous conservative base, the fact that these midterms follow a redistricting process largely controlled by Republicans, the preponderance of competitive Senate races in states that lean red. And yet Obama's diagnosis of Democrats' midterm woes comes closer to the truth. The party is suffering from a chronic condition, not a short-term malaise.In fact, the very phenomenon that sustained Obama’s own victories is the one that may doom his party in midterm elections for the rest of his life. The dynamic so cripples Democrats' off-year performance that in 2018, a President Jeb Bush or Rand Paul could see Republicans actually pick up seats.


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Michelle Attacks Movement for Junk Food in Schools
Washington Post
By Tom Hamburger
May 27, 2014

First lady gets moving against House measure to let school districts duck lunch mandates

First lady Michelle Obama is set to take an unusual, high-profile step Tuesday into the center of a legislative battle by delivering White House remarks taking issue with makers of frozen pizzas and french fries and other companies seeking to scale back school lunch standards.

Obama is scheduled to speak out against a House measure, backed by Republicans and pushed by the food industry and some school officials, that would allow some districts to opt out of federal mandates passed in 2010 to reduce sodium and increase whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables in school lunches. White House aides say she will announce the launch of a campaign-style push to fight the legislation.


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Update: Perelman Jewish Day School Board Fires the Teachers' Union
Dan Loeb, Editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice and parent of two students at Perelman Day School, recently issued the following open letter to the Board:

As the proud father of four children who have all graduated from or currently attend the Perelman Jewish Day School, I am writing to you to ask you to reconsider your unilateral decision to no longer recognize the union which has represented your teachers since 1976.

You assert that the relevant labor laws would otherwise impair your freedom of religion. I am not a lawyer, so I will not argue the legal basis for such a claim. However, I have serious reservations about the halachic, moral and social basis for your action.

This claim that union-busting is part and parcel of our exercise of religion sadly plays into the hands of those anti-Semites to whom the word "Jew" is a verb with a negative connotation.

In fact, exactly the opposite is true; our religion deplores strong arm tactics in employer-employee relations. The Perelman Jewish Day School is affiliated with the Conservative Movement whose Committee on Jewish Law and Standards passed a teshuvah (legal position) on Jewish labor law: Conservative day schools and other institutions must pay a living wage to their workers and "may not interfere in any way with organizing drives."


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Sign a protest letter:



MoveOn Going to Harrisburg to Fight for Increase in the Minimum Wage
Both MoveOn and JSPAN support an increase in the state minimum wage to $10.10. MoveOn is holding its rally and lobby day in Harrisburg on June 3, 2014. You can sign the minimum wage petition they will carry with them (see link below), make arrangements to join them there, or even register to go with them by chartered bus.

Sign the petittion:

Sign up for Harrisburg: contact Adam Goldman, Organizer, Philadelphia Unemployment Project, 215-557-0822 x127.


Your Opinion Counts

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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

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.

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