PA's State Food Purchase Program Needs Full Support of Govern

JSPAN Newsletter - June 18, 2010

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: June 18, 2010
JSPAN Annual Meeting June 24 to Feature Ethicist Arthur Caplan


PA's State Food Purchase Program Needs Full Support of Governor
Time is running out! Your help is needed to ensure that critical funding for hunger relief programs is part of Pennsylvania's FY2010-2011 budget. To meet the needs of Pennsylvania families who do not have enough to eat, Governor Rendell must appropriate $20 million to the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP).

The SFPP is a state-run program that grants money to food pantries and food cupboards throughout the Commonwealth. Hundreds of organizations receive support through this program, including two Philadelphia-based projects, the Mitzvah Food Project (MFP) and the Jewish Relief Agency (JRA). Both organizations have already sustained 60% cuts in SFPP support,and will be directly impacted by any reduction in funding to SFPP, while demand for assistance continues to increase dramatically.

The statistics in the recent Population Study of the Jewish Community highlight the important role SFPP funding plays in the Philadelphia Jewish community:

  • The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia estimates that there are 11,300 Jews in the region living with food insecurity.
  • In the last twelve months, 4,476 Jewish households reported having to cut the size of a meal or skip a meal due to financial reasons.
SFPP helps Pennsylvania's private charitable food distribution network provide nutritionally balanced food packages to low-income families and individuals. SFPP is the Commonwealth's most important contribution to the effort to feed the hungry children, seniors, people with disabilities, and the working poor, who rely on the food banks, food pantries and other providers for essential nutritional assistance.

JSPAN members are being asked to let the Governor know that struggling households in our community are counting on SFPP support to help them access the food they need to survive.

Contacting the Governor is EASY!

  • Simply dial (717) 787-2500.
  • Tell the Governor's representative your name, the city you live in, that you are a Pennsylvania citizen concerned with hunger in your state, and that you would like to see $20 million allocated to the State Food Purchase Program. Stress that cutting any more money from this program will result in more Pennsylvanians going hungry.

Your voice matters! Please take a few minutes and call Governor Rendell TODAY.


Philadelphia's National Museum of American Jewish History Recognized in the House
On June 9, 2010, the United States House of Representatives passed H. Res. 1381, a resolution introduced by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-District 13) and Rep. Bob Brady (D-District 1) which recognizes the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia as "the only museum in the Nation dedicated exclusively to exploring and preserving the American Jewish experience." The museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, was founded in 1976 by members of Congregation Mikveh Israel and, with more than 25,000 objects, is the repository of the largest collection of Jewish Americana in the world.

The museum is currently constructing a 100,000-square-foot, 5 story building which will be opening on November 12, 13 and 14, 2010. On November 12, in collaboration with Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania and some of America's most prominent scholars of American Jewish history, the museum will host an all-day symposium to explore the history, impact, and special relationship of American Jews with American cities.

"Civic Space and the Public Square" will question how public space is designed in the United States, and will feature four prominent architects who have worked on civic and monumental projects. "Jewish Encounters with Freedom: Snapshots from the American Past and Present" will address how the meaning and rhetoric of freedom has changed for Jews throughout their history in the United States.

Click here to read the full text of H. Res. 1381


PA High Court Upholds Philadelphia Gun Law
On June 7, 2010 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a ruling that allows Philadelphia's lost or stolen handgun reporting ordinance to stand. By a one-line order, the high court denied the petitions for appeal filed by both the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the City of Philadelphia from an earlier decision in the Commonwealth Court, which had upheld the city's lost or stolen ordinance and two other local laws dealing with firearms.

The three city ordinances left standing and in force deal with lost or stolen handgun reporting; restricting access to guns where a protection from abuse order is involved; and restricting access to firearms where an individual is in imminent danger to him or herself or others. By its order denying the city and NRA appeals, the Supreme Court effectively upheld these three local ordinances, but also affirmed the part of the Commonwealth Court case that struck down two other Philadelphia gun ordinances, one dealing with straw purchases and one dealing with assault weapons, ruling those laws were preempted by state laws regulating firearms.

The Supreme Court's ruling gives new energy to a growing, statewide coalition of 43 cities and towns across the Commonwealth - including Pennsylvania's four largest cities, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie and Allentown - that have taken action in support of lost or stolen firearm reporting. They have all passed some type of ordinance, which requires that handgun owners report firearms which are lost or stolen to local police, usually within 48 to 72 hours of discovering their absence. Police and law enforcement officials say that such reporting will help them crack down on illegal straw gun trafficking - which fuels gun violence in the state.

CeaseFirePA, a statewide gun violence prevention organization, is spearheading the effort across the Commonwealth to demand that the General Assembly pass legislation on lost or stolen handgun reporting "as a common sense reform to protect every Pennsylvanian," according to the organization's executive director, Joe Grace. JSPAN is an active member of the coalition that includes "cites, towns, mayors, city council members, police chiefs, faith leaders and citizens."


This Will Put a Smile on Your Face!
A disappointed salesman of Coca Cola returns from his assignment to Israel.

A friend asked: "Why weren't you successful with the Israelis?"

The salesman explained: "When I got posted, I was very confident that I would make a good sales pitch. But, I had a problem. I didn't know how to speak Hebrew. So, I planned to convey the message through three posters."


"First poster: A man lying in the hot desert sand… totally exhausted and fainting."
"Second poster: The man is drinking our Cola."
"Third poster: Our man is now totally refreshed."
"And then these posters were pasted all over the place."
"Then that should have worked!!" said the friend.

"I know it SHOULD have!" said the salesman, "but I didn't realize that they read from right to left!!!!!!"


Child Nutrition Week of Action: Join the Campaign!
Summer is approaching, and for millions of America's children, the end of the school year means the end of the school lunch program, school breakfast program, and nutritious snacks that they depend on for necessary nutrition.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 1 in 4 children is dealing with food insecurity, not knowing where the next meal will come from. For these 17 million kids, school lunches are often the only full meal they get. But with summer vacation, this hunger and insecurity only increases as low-income children lose access to this important service.

Out of the 19.4 million children receiving lunch assistance from September to June, just eleven percent access summer food programs. The best alternative to already overcrowded food banks, the Summer Nutrition Program has been cut over the years, making it unavailable or insufficient for many who would otherwise qualify for the program.

What happens to these children? Where do they go to access meals? And what, if anything, are they eating?

President Obama has requested $1 billion per year in new investments for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act. Experts in the field have estimated that this amount is the minimum needed to strengthen child nutrition programs, ensure children have access to healthy meals, and make significant progress toward ending childhood hunger.

The Senate Agriculture Committee had passed a child nutrition bill in March of this year, suggesting $450 million per year, about halfway toward the President's request. On June 10, 2010 the House Education and Labor Committee released its bipartisan version of the bill, entitled "The Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act of 2010." The proposal would increase funding for child nutrition programs by approximately $8 billion over the next 10 years. While this is short of the President's suggested allocation, it is significantly greater than the Senate bill's authorization. This legislation is expected to be considered by the House Ways and Means and Agriculture Committees later this month.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is now asking for help from the Jewish community to demonstrate broad, national support for a robust child nutrition reauthorization bill. JSPAN members are being encouraged to participate in a Child Nutrition Week of Action. Through calls and letters to Congress, lobby visits with the White House and members of the House of Representatives, and a Facebook campaign, the Jewish community is hoping to influence how much funding and what provisions are included in the final version of the House bill.

Here's what our readers can do to raise awareness and advocate for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act:

Call your Representative and encourage him or her to ensure that the child nutrition bill invests an additional $1 billion per year to increase program access and make significant progress against child hunger. To call your Representative, use this toll-free number and give them your Representative's name to be connected to his or her office: 1-800-815-3740. (To find your Representative online, go to


Jews in Europe and Mideast Share Genes, Studies Show
Nicholas Wade is a British-born scientific reporter, editor and author who currently writes for the Science Times section of The New York Times. On June 10, 2010, he reported on two recently-concluded genetic studies, "the first to use genome-wide scanning devices to compare many Jewish communities around the world. A major surprise from both surveys is the genetic closeness of the two Jewish communities of Europe, the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim. The Ashkenazim thrived in Northern and Eastern Europe until their devastation by the Hitler regime, and now live mostly in the United States and Israel. The Sephardim were exiled from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497 and moved to the Ottoman Empire, North Africa and the Netherlands."

It had been widely believed that "Jews have no common origin but are a miscellany of people in Europe and Central Asia who converted to Judaism at various times. ... The shared genetic elements suggest that members of any Jewish community are related to one another as closely as are fourth or fifth cousins in a large population, which is about 10 times higher than the relationship between two people chosen at random off the streets of New York City.

"Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews have roughly 30 percent European ancestry, with most of the rest from the Middle East, the two surveys find. The two communities seem very similar to each other genetically, which is unexpected because they have been separated for so long. ... The genetics confirms a trend noticed by historians: that there was more contact between Ashkenazim and Sephardim than suspected, with Italy as the linchpin of interchange."

To read "Jews in Europe and Mideast Share Genes, Studies Show" by Nicholas Wade in its entirety, click here.


Gaza Update: Excerpts of Remarks on June 9 by President Obama and Palestinian Authority President Abbas
Now, we've just gone through a difficult period in the region. We saw the tragedy with the flotillas, something that I think has drawn attention all around the world to the ongoing problems in Gaza. As part of the United Nations Security Council, we were very clear in condemning the acts that led to this crisis and have called for a full investigation. And it is important that we get all the facts out. But what we also know is that the situation in Gaza is unsustainable. I think increasingly you're seeing debates within Israel, recognizing the problems with the status quo. And so President Abbas and I had very extensive discussions about how we could help to promote a better approach to Gaza.

We agree that Israelis have the right to prevent arms from entering into Gaza that can be used to launch attacks into Israeli territory. But we also think that it is important for us to explore new mechanisms so that we can have goods and services, and economic development, and the ability of people to start their own businesses, and to grow the economy and provide opportunity within Gaza. And so we are going to be working hand in hand to make sure that we come up with a better approach, and urge Israel to work with all parties involved -- Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, and the international community -- to find a resolution to this issue.

To read the full text of the remarks, click here.


Another Comment on Israel's Dilemma
Gary Rosenblatt has, since 1993, been the editor and publisher of The Jewish Week of New York. In the June 2, 2010 issue of the paper, he posits that "the Gaza flotilla episode pinpoints the weakness of an Israeli mindset that maintains that the greatest threat remains the military battlefield and is caught flat-footed in dealing with political assaults." Rather than uniting world opinion behind Israel, this pattern of behavior is leading, "in Europe as well as the Arab world, (to) ... delegitimization efforts - negating Israel's very right as a state - (which) may soon rival the Iran nuclear campaign as an existential threat to Israel."

Mr. Rosenblatt states that "the Re'ut Institute, an independent think tank based in Tel Aviv, earlier this year issued a detailed 'conceptual framework,' ... identifying the ... forces driving the delegitimization campaign, and urging the Israeli government and pro-Israel community to become far more focused and sophisticated in combating the effort, ... not by defending and countering, but by going on the offensive." Gidi Grinstein, founder and president of the institute, suggests that the Jewish community needs to learn from the delegitimizers in their use of " 'the open tent approach,' accepting anyone who opposes Israel, regardless of their other beliefs. ... Many pro-Israel activists, by contrast, make up a closed tent community, quick to say, in effect, 'if you're not with me on every issue, I'm against you' - from Evangelical Christians, whose theology is seen as suspect, to J Street-type activists, often critical of Israeli policy.

"The Re'ut report argues that such thinking is dangerously limiting, and encourages accepting as 'pro-Israel' anyone who supports a Jewish state and the right of Jews to self-determination. ... While it may be emotionally difficult for groups like AIPAC and the Zionist Organization of America to sit at the same table and strategize with folks from J Street and Peace Now, if the common cause is the survival and flourishing of our only Jewish state - and the realization is that the current effort is floundering, or worse - we must put our secondary differences aside and work together."

To read "Israel's Delegitimizers Are Gaining" by Gary Rosenblatt in its entirety, click here.


Opinion Column: Letter from Istanbul
In an op-ed piece entitled "Letter From Istanbul" in the June 16, 2010 issue of The New York Times, columnist Thomas L. Friedman describes Turkey's current Islamist government, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, as "seemingly focused not on joining the European Union but the Arab League - no, scratch that, on joining the Hamas-Hezbollah-Iran resistance front against Israel. Now how did that happen?"

Mr. Friedman explains that "a series of vacuums that emerged in and around Turkey in the last few years" have caused Turkey to turn "away from its balance point between East and West. This could have enormous implications. Turkey's balancing role has been one of the most important, quiet, stabilizers in world politics." The vacuums include the E.U. denying Turkey membership, "a key factor prompting Turkey to move closer to Iran and the Arab world," and the lack of leadership in the Arab-Muslim world, resulting in Erdogan's rise in popularity, "not because he is promoting a synthesis of democracy, modernity and Islam, but because he is loudly bashing Israel over its occupation and praising Hamas instead of the more responsible Palestinian Authority in the West Bank."

In conclusion, Mr. Friedman depicts Erdogan as "smart, charismatic and ... very pragmatic. He's no dictator. I'd love to see him be the most popular leader on the Arab street, but not by being more radical than the Arab radicals and by catering to Hamas, but by being more of a democracy advocate than the undemocratic Arab leaders and mediating in a balanced way between all Palestinians and Israel. That is not where Erdogan is at, though, and it's troubling."

To read "Letter From Istanbul" by Thomas Friedman in its entirety, click here.


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