Passover Edition

JSPAN Newsletter - April 5, 2012
Jewish Social Policy Action Network

Passover Edition
Newsletter: April 5, 2012
JSPAN Seder Supplements Available on the Web
JSPAN announces that its 2012 Passover Supplement to the Haggadah is now available. The Freedom Seder Supplement celebrates emerging freedom movements around the world with poems, texts and prayers. Editors Stephen C. Sussman Esq. and Kenneth R. Myers Esq. have drawn from far-ranging sources, from Lord Byron to Tibet. Each of the readings includes suggestions keying it into the traditional Seder service.

Supplements to the traditional Haggadah relate the biblical story of the Exodus to current events and issues. In 2010 JSPAN released its first Supplement, entitled "We were strangers," on the theme of immigration in history and in the United States. In 2011 the JSPAN Supplement, "This is the bread of poverty," brought the focus to hunger here and around the world. The 2012 "Freedom Seder" takes up the human longing for freedom that is spreading around the globe, and concludes with four resolutions that we as American Jews can meaningfully adopt.

The 2012 Freedom Supplement, comprised of 16 pages with illustrations, is available without charge as a download from the JSPAN web site. The 2011 and 2010 JSPAN Haggadah Supplements can be downloaded at the same location without charge as a download from the JSPAN web site.


JSPAN Speaks Out on SNAP Program Under the Farm Bill
JSPAN urged Senator Casey to support preservation of the SNAP food program under the Farm Bill now in Congress, by letter on March 26, 2012:

Dear Senator Casey:

As constituent groups representing over 1.8 million SNAP recipients in Pennsylvania and the many other low-income and food insecure people in our state, we urge you to protect SNAP and to strengthen the program. In particular, we urge you to support proposals in the Farm Bill to ensure that Pennsylvania households have the resources to purchase a nutritionally adequate diet by increasing the benefit adequacy; and we urge you to oppose proposals to cap or reducing funding, restrict eligibility or reduce benefits in SNAP, including the proposal to alter the "heat and eat" state option. Proposed changes to that option would take meals away from tens of thousands of Pennsylvania households.

[read more]


Merit Selection of Judges Up for Consideration
Bills are pending in the Judiciary Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to implement merit selection of appellate judges (Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth Courts). H.B.1815 would establish a judicial nominating commission of 15 people, four picked by the Governor, four by the legislature and seven from the general public. H.B.1816 provides details as to appointment of the members of the commission. At least four of the fifteen would be lawyers, at least four would be non-lawyers, and at least one would be a law school dean.

For each vacancy the nominating commission would propose five qualified candidates, from whom the Governor would pick one to go into the confirmation process in the Pennsylvania Senate. If three attempts produced no confirmed candidate, the nominating commission would choose the appointee from the list of five.

Confirmed judges would serve for four years and then run on their records every ten years (as at present). Further details on the two Bills are presented at bill/. JSPAN endorses merit selection of appellate judges, a position reached by our Board of Directors last year after hearing from retired judges on both sides. Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts supports merit selection and urges people to voice their support for these Bills.

To can your views by linking to e-mails of the members of the Judiciary Committee through links at click here.


Slavery Flourishes in Modern Times
3,000 Years After Exodus, Passover Spurs Us To Ban Practice

Jewish Daily Forward
Rachel Kahn-Troster, April 2, 2012

During the Seder, some Jews have the custom of going around the table and imagining themselves as Hebrew slaves in Egypt during the Exodus. They describe their respective slave jobs — bricklayer, house slave, mortar mixer — and how they feel about their impending freedom. The game illuminates the Seder's insistence that had God not redeemed us from Egypt, the Jewish people might still be enslaved.

But when I think of what it would mean to be a slave today, I don't need to look to the past for examples. Going around the Seder table, I think: I could be a farm hand, a nanny or a home health care worker, a child picking cocoa or a man laboring on a fishing boat, someone forced into prostitution or doing menial work at a hotel. More than 3,000 years after the Exodus, and 150 years after the Civil War, slavery and human trafficking continue to flourish around the world.

Estimates of modern slavery range from 12 million to 27 million people. Human trafficking has been found in more than 90 cities in the United States, with the number rising. Tens of thousands of foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States, and many Americans, including children and teenagers, are also at risk of being trafficked domestically. Slavery is the extreme end of an abusive employment continuum filled with low-wage, dangerous jobs.

[read more]


Home Health Aides Deserve a Living Wage
The Washington Post
Dean Baker and Steven L. Dawson, March 29, 2012

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Steven L. Dawson is president of the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute. As Congress gins up its attack on women's health services, another issue that affects the welfare of women has been getting far less attention. Caregiving in America is a female occupation. Most family caregivers are women - and they constitute 90 percent of paid workers who provide home health services.

Many people do not realize that those who provide home care are not guaranteed the same right to a 40-hour week under the Fair Labor Standards Act as most other workers. Since 1974, home-care aides have been subject to the "companionship exemption," which deemed "companions to the elderly and infirm" to be much like teenage babysitters: casual laborers who did not need to earn a living wage to support a family.

[read more]

JSPAN has adopted a resolution to support the U.S. Department of Labor initiative to improve the working standards and protections applicable to home care workers. The JSPAN position will be communicated to the Administration.


One Simple Argument Could Have Saved Obamacare. Too Bad Verrilli Didn't Make It
The New Republic
Jeffrey Rosen, March 30, 2012

In the oral arguments over the constitutionality of health care reform, John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy seemed at times to be looking for a reason to uphold the law despite their doubts. Unfortunately, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli didn't give it to them. Verrilli's error wasn't his nervous presentation-the sips of water and coughs followed by long silences now unfairly mocked by a Republican National Committee attack ad that plays the audio of his stammering over the headline "ObamaCare: It's a Tough Sell." Instead, Verrilli's error was substantive: He failed squarely to answer Roberts and Kennedy's repeated questions about what limits he envisioned to Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce. Verrilli's evasions weren't only unhelpful-they were also unnecessary.

There is, in fact, a persuasive limiting principle that would allow the Court to uphold health care without endorsing the unbounded federal power that concerns Kennedy and Roberts. It appeared in a Supreme Court brief filed by the government during the lower court proceedings in the eleventh circuit health care challenge that is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court. (Disclosure: the brief was filed by my brother in law, Neal Katyal, then the Acting Solicitor General.) The answer also appears in Supreme Court briefs filed by states including Maryland and California and by law professors including Barry Friedman and Matthew Adler. But it doesn't appear in the briefs for the United States that Verrilli filed before the Supreme Court-perhaps because he viewed it as too conservative in its attempt to persuade the conservative justices that the framers of the Constitution would have allowed the regulation of health care.

The limiting principle goes something like this: In previous cases denying Congress the power to regulate local activities such as guns in schools or violence against women, the Court has drawn a distinction between activity that is truly local and activity that is truly national, in the sense that the states aren't able effectively to regulate the activity on their own. When it comes to violence against women or guns in schools, states arguably have the will and the resources to respond to these problems.

[read more]


How Religious Expression is Splitting the Electorate - Including Republicans
Time Swampland

By Adam Sorensen, March 22, 2012

Americans may be more religious than their peers in other Western countries, but they have their limits when it comes to mixing religion and public life. According to a new survey conducted by Pew, a 38% plurality of Americans for the first time say there's too much expression of faith in politics. That figure has increased dramatically in the last decade, especially in the last two years, and currently includes almost half of Democrats and independents. Even roughly a quarter of Republicans, up from 8% in 2001, feel the same way.

Part of this can be explained by the rise of the "nones"-Americans who do not identify with any particular faith or who consider themselves atheists and agnostics-a bloc that has grown considerably in recent years, from 12% of the population in the 1990s to 19% last year. Fully a third of young people now count themselves as unaffiliated, and young "nones" nearly doubled between 2006 and 2011, according to political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell.

[read more]


Abington Misses an Opportunity
Thanks to Shelley Kapnek Rosenberg

Pennsylvania state law protects certain human rights to equality and has remedies for those who experience discrimination on the basis of race, religion and sex - but not sexual orientation. But municipalities are not preempted from filling in that gap with a local ordinance.

On January 14, 2011, Abington Township Commissioners voted down a proposed ordinance to provide to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens the same rights that all other township residents enjoy. While there has been great progress in the area of civil rights, federal and state laws do not specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Thus, LGBT people are unprotected unless local communities enact ordinances to protect them.

What protection does such an ordinance offer? The state PA Human Relations Commission anti-discrimination statute requires mediation to resolve claims of discrimination. It covers housing, employment, and public accommodations (transportation, buildings, hotels, restaurants, stores, education). Twenty-seven Pennsylvania municipalities, including Philadelphia, have passed anti-discrimination ordinances. The cost is low because volunteers trained by the local HRC can provide the service.

JSPAN urges Abington Township to recognize the rights of the LGBT community and to adopt an ordinance - as so many other municipalities in the area have done - extending the protection of rule against discrimination to this minority. - Ed.


Fighting Hunger Strategically: The Farm Bill
By Ruth Laibson, JSPAN Vice President

Abby Leibman, President and CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, addressed the JSPAN Board of Directors meeting on March 20, 2012. Ms. Leibman began her presentation by delineating the two-fold goals that drive all of MAZON's efforts - tzedakah and tikkun olam - to help the hungry now and to lessen the scourge of hunger tomorrow.

Founded 26 years ago by educator and writer Leonard Fein and Philadelphia attorney and JSPAN Board member Theodore Mann, MAZON is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing and alleviating hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds. The organization raises funds within the Jewish community to help its partners in the hunger field, such as food banks, emergency food shelters and other hunger relief groups, feed the over 50 million food insecure people in the United States today, including over 17 million children. Tragically, the elderly, the disabled, and the working poor are the majority of those facing hunger in this country.

MAZON is also committed to using education and advocacy as tools to guarantee that the food safety net will be maintained. In local communities across the nation, MAZON is supporting efforts which will encourage hungry citizens to access resources that will help them get out of poverty, and in legislatures on state and federal levels MAZON is raising its visibility and its voice on behalf of the disenfranchised and the food insecure.

Abby Leibman pointed out that the current challenge before the hunger field is the intense debate now developing among members of Congress over the 2012 Farm Bill. The most recent version of the bill, which passed in 2008 and expires in September 2012, authorized nearly $300 billion in mandatory spending over five years.

As Mia Hubbard, vice president of programs at MAZON describes it: "The Farm Bill more or less controls what we eat. It helps regulate what crops are planted, prioritized and subsidized, which impacts the fate of agribusiness and family farmers alike. It establishes whether sustainable farming and conservation practices will be implemented. It influences whether our food is healthy and affordable, and governs the kinds and levels of assistance we provide to hungry people. Each and every one of us has a stake in the Farm Bill."

Ms. Leibman assured the JSPAN Board that MAZON will be using this critical piece of legislation as a key vehicle for advancing the organization's anti-hunger advocacy agenda. MAZON believes that the next Farm Bill can - and should - reflect Jewish values, ensuring equitable access to healthy nutritious food for all Americans.

Abby Leibman encouraged the JSPAN Board to join MAZON's effort to promote a Jewish response to the Farm Bill. More information about this important work can be obtained by calling the MAZON office at (800) 813-0577 or by emailing them at


And Some Passover Humor
A group of leading medical researchers have published data indicating that Seder participants should NOT partake of both chopped liver and charoses, it seems that this combination can lead to Charoses of the Liver.

At our seder, we had whole wheat and bran matzoh, fortified with Metamucil. The brand name, of course, is...'Let My People Go.'

Old Jewish men in Miami get hernias from wearing chai's which are too heavy. This condition is called chaiatal hernia!

JSPAN wishes you and your families a ziessen Pesach, a sweet Passover.


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
Brian Gralnick

Lynn Zeitlin
First Vice President

Judah Labovitz
Vice President

Ruth Laibson
Vice President

Kenneth Myers
Vice President

Mark Newman
Vice President

Stephen Applebaum

Stewart Weintraub
Secretary & General Counsel

Susan Myers
Policy Centers Chair

Jeffrey Pasek
Chair of the Board of Directors

Irwin Aronson
Susan Bolno
Adam Bonin
David Boonin
David S. Broida
Deanne Comer
Hon. Ruth Damsker
Marshall Dayan
William Epstein
Kenneth Fox
Paula Green
David Gutin
Rabbi Elliot Holin
Margot Horwitz
Rhoda Indictor
Joanna Klein
Nathan Kleinman
Lazar Kleit
Marlena Kleit
Rabbi Robert Layman
Richard I. Malkin
Theodore Mann
Jay Meadway
Mark Newman
Maureen Pelta
Adena Potok
Audrey Ann Ross
J. Sanford Schwartz
Daniel Segal
Burt Siegel
Marc Stier
Rabbi David Straus
Ilene Wasserman
Rabbi Joshua Waxman
Deborah Weinstein
Alex Urevick Ackelsberg
Jill Katz Zipin
Gail Zukerman

Judah Labovitz
Ken Myers
Mark Newman
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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