September 2015


JSPAN Newsletter - September 2015

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In this Issue:
Newsletter: September 2015
President's Message: The Passion for Justice is the Soul of Who We Are
By JSPAN President Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom

The new Jewish year is a time to focus our thoughts on weighty matters of society's concerns. We are taught that as individuals and as nations, we are responsible for our decisions that enhance or impede human freedom and the cause of justice.

In a striking image, we are reminded of the importance of every deed. Life is pictured as a balance scale. The pans are evenly loaded, with good deeds in one, and evil deeds in the other. And the next decision we make, the next act we take, will tip the scale one way or the other. Will it be to Good? Or to Evil? And so it is for nations as well. Our next act will impact not only our individual lives, but the life of the nation, too, for good, or for ill. What does this quaint image of the balance scale say to us, living in these precarious times, filled with so much violence and the threat of violence, so much injustice and so many social problems that defy solution? Do we throw our hands up in despair? Or do we get involved, believing that our righteous deed, no matter how small, can make a difference.

I became involved in JSPAN because I believe that we each have the power to improve the world with our deeds. As Jews, it is an obligation, a mitzvah, a sacred responsibility. Together, our deeds are bundled together and become transformative in ways we cannot imagine.


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Board Meeting: Dan Siegel
By Edward Hoffman

For this month's installment of his column introducing you to members of the JSPAN Board, Board member Ed Hoffman interviewed fellow Board member Dan Siegel, who has spent the past five years running political campaigns along the East Coast. Siegel recently started work for J Street as Deputy Regional Director for the Northeast as the staff member for PA and NJ. Dan's very much in sync with JSPAN's concern about income and racial inequality. He's helping JSPAN create small events to engage the larger community- so keep your eyes peeled for new opportunities to get involved with us over the next year.


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On the Road Again: JSPANers March (with Torahs!) in NAACP Journey for Justice: Two Reports
A contingent of 150 rabbis joined the NAACP-sponsored America's Journey for Justice, a march from Selma to DC, to highlight the need for criminal justice reform, quality education for all and economic justice-all issues on JSPAN's social policy agenda. JSPAN Board member Ed Hoffman joined his rabbi, Beth Kalisch of Beth David Reform Congregation, in the Montgomery, AL, segment of the march. JSPAN Executive Director Rabbi George Stern just returned from marching from Raleigh, NC. (The March concludes in Washington, DC.) Both men sent informative and inspiring reports from the road, which you can read below.


America's Journey for Justice: Ed Hoffman's Report from the Road
My rabbi at Beth David Reform, Beth Kalisch, sent an e-mail to her congregation at the end of July. The subject line was, "Why I'm Going to Alabama." She was going to be one of 150 Reform rabbis, part of a group called Rabbis Organizing Rabbis, participating in the NAACP-sponsored America's Journey for Justice - an 860-mile march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C. The rabbis would be rotating in and out of the march, each carrying a Torah while heading North. She asked if any congregants would like to join her. Too young to go the March on Washington in 1963, I jumped at the chance to support her. Rabbi Kalisch's assignment was simply to leave Montgomery, Alabama bright and early on Tuesday, August 4, take a bus to a place about 20 miles north of Montgomery, and walk with the Torah another 20 miles toward Tuskegee. But serendipity intervened, and we wound up experiencing a lot more.


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JSPAN ED Rabbi George Stern Joins America's Journey for Justice
"The God we love is impatient with justice. The God we love commands us that black lives matter."

So said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, in a stirring speech in Raleigh during America's Journey for Justice. Sponsored by the NAACP, the Journey has been joined by Rabbis Organizing Rabbis, a Reform rabbinic coalition, as well as rabbis and laypeople from other Jewish streams and "just plain Jews."

For me, trekking out of Raleigh, North Carolina, was an opportunity to participate in a mass movement that I was too young-or too clueless-to be involved with in the 1960s. It was also a reaffirmation of everything that JSPAN stands for. The approach of the organizers was to affirm the connectedness of all of the issues on the progressive agenda: quality education for all children; universally available healthcare; reform of the criminal justice system (mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, police misconduct); living wages and the enormous and growing gap between rich and poor as well as between the rich and a shrinking middle class; and widespread attacks on voting rights. Rev. William Barber II, firebrand leader of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina (Ground Zero for much of the justice movement), put special emphasis on fighting the suppression of voting rights as crucial if we want to affect all of the other issues.

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Learning from History: Prof. Burton Caine Recounts Lawsuit over 1979 Papal Visit & Landmark Church/State Opinion
If you thought the impending September visit of the Pope may be creating a mess, in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article, Temple University Professor of Law Burton Caine describes the lessons learned from the 1979 Papal visit and provides a first-hand account of the law suit that it spurred brought by the Philadelphia ACLU. Professor Caine, then local general counsel for the ACLU, recounts how the U.S. Supreme Court in Gilfillan v. City of Philadelphia upheld church/state separation in an opinion in which "Justice William Brennan, an observant Catholic who went to church daily, was a staunch defender of the constitutional prohibition of state aid to religion because the hand that giveth may also restrict." The article is available at


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Plan to Participate: Philadelphia Children's Sabbath


Stiglitz: Why the Rich Are So Much Richer and How to Create an Economy that Works for Everyone
The situation is complicated, as are the solutions. In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, James Surowiecki writes that Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has been "among the loudest and most influential public intellectuals decrying the costs of inequality, and making the case for how we can use government policy to deal with it."

Stiglitz has been a prolific writer in this area-from The Price of Inequality to The Great Divide and his other "enormously important" papers, Surowiecki walks the reader through the evolution of Stiglitz's thinking and writing including his recent report from the Roosevelt Institute, "Rewriting the Rules," in which Stiglitz offers a "detailed list of reforms (that) he argues will make it possible to create 'an economy that works for everyone,' " and reviews Stiglitz's latest work honed with Bruce Greenwald, "Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development and Social Progress."

The article is available at:


Your Opinion Counts

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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

Lynn Zeitlin
Past President

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
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


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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