November 2015


JSPAN Newsletter - November 2015

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In this Issue:
Newsletter: November 2015
JSPAN To Present Polman, Satullo, Folmer and Leach on Gridlock and What To Do About It
If you believe that our country is being harmed by the inability of our lawmakers to pass critically important legislation, then JSPAN's program on Sunday, Nov. 22 is a place you'll want to be.

Following up on our Nov. 8 event (see coverage and commentary below), "American Democracy Challenged," where former Congressmen Martin Frost (D-Tx) and Tom Davis (R-Va) outlined serious challenges to our democracy resulting from hyper-gerrymandering and infusion of unregulated money into campaigns, the Nov. 8 (free) program will deal with local issues and ways to effect change. For more information and to register, click here.


The Disappearing Middle Ground in American Politics
By Bryan Schwartzman

A rare, borderline miraculous thing happened inside Congregation Rodeph Shalom: a Republican and a Democrat not only jointly identified a political problem, but also agreed upon a set of solutions. Perhaps the true miracle would be if any of their ideas are ever adopted by Congress.

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Virginia) and Martin Frost (D-Texas) - former political adversaries - are co-authors of the recently released work "The Partisan Divide: Congress in Crisis." The two former pols addressed an audience of roughly 50 people at the synagogue in a November 8 program sponsored by JSPAN. (A number of organizations and synagogues served as community partners in promoting the event.)

They presented a compelling case that the two parties are being driven further and further apart. Today's high levels of partisanship, they argued, make it exceedingly difficult for Congress to complete its routine work - such as raising the debt ceiling and passing a budget - let alone reach meaningful compromise on pressing issues such as immigration reform. Hinted at, but never stated outright, was the fear that - if left unchecked - partisanship might threaten to tear the fabric of constitutional democracy.


[read more]


For Heaven's Sake
By Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom, JSPAN President

As I listened to former Representatives Tom Davis and Martin Frost speak on the topic of their new book, The Partisan Divide, Congress in Crisis, I thought of a teaching from the Jewish tradition. It appears in a section of the Mishnah known as Pirkei Avot, the Lessons of the Ancestors. "Disputes for the sake of heaven will yield meaningful results; but disputes that are not for the sake of heaven eventually destroy themselves."

What makes a dispute "for the sake of heaven" or not? According to the rabbis, a dispute for the sake of heaven is one in which both parties are seeking truth, listen to each other with open minds, and have respect for each other's opinions. The opposite is a controversy based on rigidity and demagoguery, wherein one seeks to win, score points, and defeat an opponent, without regard to the negative impact on society.


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Board Meeting: Katie Beran
For this month's installment of his column, "Board Meeting," JSPAN Board member Ed Hoffman introduces fellow Board member attorney Katie Beran who currently works as a law clerk in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for the Honorable Gerald Austin McHugh and as an Adjunct Professor at Temple Law School in the Supervision to Aid Reentry Program (which Katie says is really amazing!). Katie tells Ed about her Jewish upbringing in Cherry Hill, her experiences at Camp Galil, what progressive issues interest her most and much more.


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Speakers Address Institutionalized Racism in America

A newly organized group at the University of Pennsylvania, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, and SOUL, Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation, are cohosting "From the Civil Rights Era to the Age of Mass Incarceration: Institutionalized Racism in America" at Penn Hillel on November 18, 2015 at 8 PM. Speakers include James Perkins Jr., first Black mayor of Selma, AL, Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director, T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and Marshall "Eddie" Conway, former Minister of Defense, Baltimore Black Panther Party.


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JSPAN Submits Testimony to PA Senate Hearing on SB869 Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform
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 even accused of a crime. In June, Senators Mike Folmer (R-48) and Anthony Williams (D-8) introduced SB 869, a bill which would provide much needed reform to the law of civil asset forfeiture in Pennsylvania.

JSPAN strongly supports passage of SB 869 and submitted a statement, entered into the record as testimony, to the PA Senate Hearing on SB 869 Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform held on October 20, 2015, stating, in part: "JSPAN joins the ACLU and other organizations in calling for an immediate change in the Commonwealth's civil forfeiture laws. To that end, we support SB 869, which would set clear and uniform procedures for using civil forfeiture, postpone seizures until conviction and then ensure that property owners have adequate procedural protections, and eliminate profit motive by requiring that all proceeds from forfeiture go into a general government fund."


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Don't Miss R.B.G.'s [Wonderful] Advice: Fight for the Things You Care About

In a recent report, New York Times reporter Irin Carmon described U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg giving considered advice to her younger female admirers on the occasion of accepting an award. "My advice is to fight for the things you care about," the Justice said, "and to do it in a way that will lead others to join you." To hear more of what Carmon characterizes as R.B.G.'s "cautious radicalism."


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Plan to Attend JCRC Program, "Protecting Creation: A Jewish Response to Climate Change"

Jewish tradition teaches us to protect the Earth for future generations. Because we believe that as Jews, we are obligated to deepen our commitment to stewardship and protecting the Earth, we are proud to cosponsor this important program, "Protecting Creation: A Jewish Response to Climate Change," presented by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Jewish Community Relations Council. For more information and registration, click here.




Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee Presents "Fighting for a Living Wage in Pennsylvania
Join the Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee on December 3, 2015 for an update on the fight for a living wage in Pennsylvania with special guest Senator Daylin Leach who has been leading the charge in Harrisburg for legislation that ensures a living wage for all Pennsylvanians by raising the minimum wage to $15. The program will be held at 7 PM the Jewish Federation, 2100 Arch Street, Room 800, Philadelphia, PA. Suggested donation is $10. Refreshments will be served. No one will be turned away. RSPV to Michael Hersch at 215-668-5454 or

JSPAN strongly supports raising the minimum wage and will shortly be issuing a revised position statement with regard to economic justice.



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




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JSPAN Officers
Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom

Richard Malkin
First Vice President

Burt Siegel
Vice President

Marc Stier
Vice President

Jill Katz Zipin
Vice President

Joanna Klein

George Pomerantz

Stewart Weintraub
General Counsel

Rabbi George Stern
Executive Director

Irwin Aronson
Katie Beran
Susan Bolno
Adam Bonin
Ruth Damsker
William Epstein
Rabbi Seth Goren
Brian Gralnick
Edward Hoffman
Margot Horwitz
Adrienne Jacoby
Babette Josephs
Nathan Kleinman
Marlena Kleit
Judah Labovitz
Ruth Laibson
Jonathan Lipson
Theodore Mann
Jeffrey Pasek
Audrey Ann Ross
J. Sanford Schwartz
Bryan Schwartzman
Daniel Segal
Dan Siegel
Rabbi David Straus
Ilene Wasserman
Deborah Weinstein
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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