The Revolution in Medical Genetics

JSPAN Newsletter - October 18, 2013

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: October 18, 2013
Reminder: Don't Miss Presentation of the 9th Annual Social Justice Award to Attorney Mark A. Aronchick, Advocate for Equality
On November 25, JSPAN will present its 2013 Social Justice Award to Mark A. Aronchick, Esquire, in recognition of his distinguished contributions to social justice and equality for all people. The guest speaker will be Patrick J. Murphy, former Unites States Representative and current MSNBC contributor. The event will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Independence Visitor Center. Look for your invitation in the mail. For further details or to become a sponsor, contact Shelley Rappaport at 215-292-9575 or by email at


JSPAN Wants Your Opinion: Keep a Lookout for Communications Survey
As part of our strategic planning initiative, JSPAN is examining and evaluating how we communicate with our stakeholders and the larger community. An important component in this process is to look closely at how we communicate, how effectively we advance the organization's mission, and whether we are doing a good job at reaching longtime supporters as well as new people who are interested in JSPAN's role as a progressive voice on social policy. We want to know if we are reaching you, how effective we are in communicating our message, and how we can improve and refine all of our communications tools. To this end, we will be inviting you to participate in a short survey that will help us improve JSPAN's overall communications strategy and make us a stronger organization going forward. Keep a lookout for the survey in your e-mailbox and please take a few minutes to complete it and let us know your thoughts.


The Revolution in Medical Genetics and Personalized Medicine, Hope for Novel Therapies, Concern for Ethical Use
CHERRY HILL, N.J.-Thursday, October 10, 2013. It was a dark and stormy night in Cherry Hill, almost exactly one year after Superstorm Sandy brought about the postponement of the 2012 Katz JCC/JSPAN symposium on advances in Medical Genetics and Personalized Medicine. Over 125 audience members were treated to an exciting presentation about what the revolution in Medical Genetics means for the current and future practice of medicine, including the ethical and social implications of this amazing technology.

JSPAN Vice-President Richard Malkin, M.D., who chairs JSPAN's Healthcare and Bioethics Policy Center, began the program by presenting an overview of the current status of genetic testing and an introduction to understanding genes, their purpose and their regulation. Scientific presentations by Dr. Generosa Grana, Director of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper and Dr. Rhonda Schnur, Head of the Division of Genetics of the Cooper University Hospital explained our recent ability to understand the genetic basis of individuals' specific cancer, resulting in a "personalized" treatment regimen, as well as know who and how to screen for genetic risk of cancer, culminating in possible novel preventative therapies. We also learned how genetic analysis has grown to an ability to "sequence" the entire genome of an individual, and how newborns are now screened for 60 metabolic diseases at birth.

These presentations were followed by a panel discussion, chaired by Dr. Malkin, including the scientific presenters and Rabbi Richard Address, senior Rabbi of M'Kor Shalom, who recently served as the specialist and consultant on Caring Community and Family Concerns for the Reform movement. Rabbi Address discussed the Jewish tradition's application to challenging medical genetic issues, including the appropriateness of doing everything possible to enhance "life." Questions from the audience followed, addressing areas ranging from specific issues of who should get genetic testing, insurance coverage and possible discrimination, the current commercial push to have everyone get their entire genome sequenced, to where a patient with a possible cancer diagnosis should go for treatment- the differences between a local community hospital and a comprehensive cancer center.

The program was very positively received by the large audience, and proved very enjoyable for all the presenters. Content ranging from exciting general concepts to very specific personal application created a most engaging 2 hours. Special thanks to the Katz JCC for co-sponsoring this event. JSPAN looks forward to future public symposia on medical issues, particularly those that must have a public understanding to create appropriate policy


Will the Supreme Court Punt on an Age Discrimination Case?
AARP Bulletin
By Lisa McElroy
October 9, 2013

The Supreme Court's new term started off with a bang on Oct. 7 with the oral arguments in Madigan v. Levin, a major age discrimination case. Harvey Levin, 61, was asking the Court to decide whether the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) blocked him from asserting any claims he might otherwise have under the U.S. Constitution.

Here's the lowdown:

After a long career during which he says supervisors reviewed his work positively, Levin was fired from his job as an Illinois assistant state attorney general. His replacement? A lawyer in her 30s. What's more, two other older attorneys were also fired, and the office later hired younger ones. (The AG's office and Levin disagree about whether the new employees were replacements; Levin argues that they were, while the AG's office says they were assigned to different cases.)

Levin sued under the ADEA, which prohibits job discrimination on the basis of age. He also argued, using another federal law, that his civil rights were violated because he was denied equal protection of the law.


[read more]


Pew Survey about Jewish America Got It All Wrong
With Flawed Comparisons, Study Reached Faulty Conclusions The Jewish Daily Forward
By J.J. Goldberg
October 13, 2013

If you've been following the news about that new survey of American Jews from the folks at the Pew Research Center, you've probably heard the basics. The New York Times summed it up nicely: "a significant rise in those who are not religious, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish."

There's one more thing you need to know: It's not true. None of it.

A "rise in those who are not religious"? Wrong. More Jews marrying "outside the faith"? Wrong. More Jews "not raising their children Jewish"? Wrong.

[read more]


Inequality Is a Choice
The New York Times (Opinionator)
By Joseph E. Stiglitz
October 13, 2013

It's well known by now that income and wealth inequality in most rich countries, especially the United States, have soared in recent decades and, tragically, worsened even more since the Great Recession. But what about the rest of the world? Is the gap between countries narrowing, as rising economic powers like China and India have lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty? And within poor and middle-income countries, is inequality getting worse or better? Are we moving toward a more fair world, or a more unjust one?

These are complex questions, and new research by a World Bank economist named Branko Milanovic, along with other scholars, points the way to some answers.

Starting in the 18th century, the industrial revolution produced giant wealth for Europe and North America. Of course, inequality within these countries was appalling - think of the textile mills of Liverpool and Manchester, England, in the 1820s, and the tenements of the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the South Side of Chicago in the 1890s - but the gap between the rich and the rest, as a global phenomenon, widened even more, right up through about World War II. To this day, inequality between countries is far greater than inequality within countries.


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Are PA Voter ID Posters Just Adding to the Confusion?
WHYY Newsworks
By Emma Jacobs
October 7, 2013

Pennsylvania's on again, off again voter ID law continues to be on hold. However, in advance of the off-year elections this November, the Corbett administration has restarted its educational campaign about the law.

The latest judge to put Pennsylvania's voter ID law on hold left in place requirements that the state must educate voters about the law, but Leslie Richards, vice chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, believes the materials provided to the county will confuse voters.

Richards thinks the two-column handout the county received from Harrisburg will give voters the wrong impression they're required to produce identification this year.

"I thought it was extremely confusing as well as misleading," Richards said. "Because the handout that they gave us says 'voter ID' in the largest print possible for it to fit across the page, and in extremely extremely small writing - I had to get my reading glasses even to see it - is the little addition that the requirement to produce photo id at the polls is not in effect at this time."

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High Court Wary of Another Campaign Contribution Barrier
The National Law Journal
By Marcia Coyle
October 8, 2013

The worst fears of campaign finance reformers played out in real time on Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court as a majority of justices appeared inclined to make another major inroad on the regulation of money in elections.

In arguments in McCutcheon and Republican National Committee v. Federal Election Commission, the deep divide on the court over First Amendment speech protection and campaign finance limits-last reflected in the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision-surfaced again. This time, the constitutional attack was on federal limits on the total amount of money an individual may contribute to candidates and political groups in a two-year election cycle.


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Bubbie and Zaydie in the Social Media Cloud
The Jewish Week
By Rabbi Jason Miller
December 20, 2013

When I first logged on to Facebook in 2004 none of my real life friends had accounts yet. At that stage in the social networking site's development, a Facebook account was only for university students (or at least anyone with a university email account). I was working at a campus Hillel and my .edu email address gave me access to Facebook so I could interface with the Jewish students on campus.

At that time it was mostly undergrads who were poking each other, updating their status, and uploading photos to Facebook. As the years went by, Facebook welcomed young adults and then high school students. The non-student users seemed to get older and older until one Baby Boomer must have finally unlocked the Facebook door and told a few friends about it. Before you knew it -- urgh! -- Mom and Dad were uploading profile pics and stalking the neighbors' pages.

You can't blame Mark Zuckerberg for transitioning the site from Ivy Leaguer college kids to anyone in the free world with a pulse. After all, you can't get to 550 million users without welcoming the Gen X'ers, emptynesters, and Medicare recipients, right?


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