Is Sexting Criminal Behavior? Not According to JSPAN Board!

JSPAN Newsletter - July 2, 2010

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: July 2, 2010
Dr. Arthur Caplan Explores End-of-Life Issues at Annual Meeting
by Margot Horwitz, JSPAN Board member

Why is it so difficult for an incapacitated person to be allowed to die in this country?

This thought-provoking question was explored at JSPAN’s Annual Meeting on June 24 by Dr. Arthur L. Caplan, Director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Caplan, who has been examining end-of-life care issues throughout his career, spoke about the history of the multi-faceted struggle which has seized the attention of the nation for fifty years.

We continue to hang on the stories of these patients--some comatose from drugs and alcohol (Karen Ann Quinlan), some from an automobile accident (Nancy Crusan) and still others from a heart attack (Terri Schiavo.) Dr. Caplan discussed other cases, with different patients, but they all had one issue in common: because they did not have health directives, their fate was in the hands of those around them—whether their families, their doctors, or political or religious leaders.

Today, with an aging population—not to mention the new health reform plan--there is even more tumult over the matter of death and dying. The issue of competency is foremost: you can manage your end of life issues if you are capable, and have the skill to plan property as well as medical issues. This is why everyone should have in place—while we are still able to do so—an “end-of-life-paper” which clearly states your wishes. (Dr. Caplan says that this should ideally be done with your family around you, so that everyone knows your specific ideas on the sub ject.) There are four states in the nation, and Pennsylvania is one of them, which insist on such a directive before a patient can be allowed to die.

In Dr. Caplan’s view, life should not be a burden. An ideal health directive will set in place the benefit-to-burden ratio, which will allow for quality of life as long as a person is competent.


City Cannot Evict Boy Scouts from their Parkway Headquarters
by Judah Labovitz, member, JSPAN Board and Church-State Policy Center

On June 24, 2010 a federal court jury found that the City of Philadelphia violated the Cradle of Liberty Boy Scouts’ constitutional right of expressive association by terminating their lease for the Boy Scouts’ Parkway headquarters. JSPAN joined as an amicus in support of the City.

More than 80 years ago, the City had leased the property to the Boy Scouts for $1 a year, and the Boy Scouts built their headquarters on that property. The City has similar lease agreements with other non-profits, including a Catholic church. However, in 2007, the City sought to terminate the lease due to the Boy Scout’s failure to comply with the City’s non-discrimination ordinance by refusing, in accordance with national Boy Scouts policy, to admit gays and atheists and, alternatively, their refusal to pay a market rate rent of approximately $200,000 per year.

In 2000, the Supreme Court had held in the case of Boy Scouts of America v. Dale that the State of New Jersey could not compel, under its public accommodation law, the reinstatement of a scout leader who had been dismissed because he was gay. According to the Court, the application of the public accommodation law to the Philadelphia Scouts violated their constitutional right to expressive association. Although the City of Philadelphia did not seek to compel the Scouts to admit anyone, the jury nonetheless concluded that the City’s refusal to continue the subsidized lease violated the Scouts’ constitutional rights. The judge has encouraged the parties to try to reach some accommodation, but it is likely that there will be an appeal.

On June 28, the Supreme Court ruled that the application by the Hastings School of Law, a California state institution, of its "all comers" requirement, denying official recognition and support to a Christian law student group that refused membership and the right to hold office to those who did not profess their belief in Jesus and/or adopted a homosexual life style, did not take away any constitutional right of the group. The school's "all comers" requirement states that recognized student organizations must admit as members eligible to hold office anyone who wishes to join. The application of the Hastings decision to the Boy Scouts case is an open question, because the majority of the Court expressly did not address whether it would have been a constitutional violation if Hastings Law School had reached the same result by applying a non-discrimination rather than "all comers" policy.

To learn more abut the Hastings School of Law case, See "Supreme Court Rules on Campus Faith Discrimination" segment below.


JSPAN Welcomes Nine New Board Members
Paula Green
Paula Green is the Associate Director of Corporate Engagement at United Way. She lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Richard I Malkin, MD
Richard Malkin is a retired pediatrician whose interests include health care reform, social and economic justice, Judaism in America and urban educational opportunity. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where he also earned his medical degree.

Richard is a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for a National Health Program. He was the Chief of Pediatrics at Health Service Plan of Pennsylvania and a past president of Congregation Or Hadash in Fort Washington.

Mark Newman
Mark Newman is a partner in EHR Associates, which is dedicated to advancing the practice of medicine through information technology. He is also active in local politics.

Mark received his BA in Philosophy from Oberlin College and an MS in Information Systems from Drexel.

Audrey Ann Ross
Audrey Ann Ross is the Government and Media Relations Coordinator at Planned Parenthood of Southern Pennsylvania. She is a board member at the League of Women Voters of Philadelphia and was the Eastern PA organizer of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence united with the Million Mom March.

Audrey Ann received her degree from Guilford College.

J. Sanford Schwartz, MD
Sandy Schwartz is Leon Hess Professor of Medicine and Health Management and Economics at the School of Medicine and The Wharton School, Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Policy and Economics and Senior Scholar at the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a clinically oriented health services researcher focusing on medical decision making.

Sandy received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He is married to Susan Carol Beer and they have three children.

Marc Stier, PhD
Marc Stier is a teacher and community activist who is currently teaching at Temple University. He received his BA from Wesleyan University and a PhD in political science from Harvard University. He has written on political philosophy, American politics, democracy and community and completed a three volume work entitled Politics and Reason.

Marc’s community activities include: president of West Mt. Airy Neighbors; leader of the Pennsylvania Transit Campaign; founder of Neighborhood Networks; and coordinator of He is married to Diane and has a daughter Katja. An avid 76ers fan, he plays basketball and has a love of jazz.

Deborah Weinstein, Esq.
Deborah Weinstein is the Founder and President of The Weinstein Firm. She has lectured on employment law in the Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department of the Wharton Business School. A former Chair of the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association, she led the Association’s initiative to create a Law Practice Management Division.

Presently Deborah serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Philadelphia Lawyer, the Bar Association’s quarterly magazine. She received her law degree from the Temple University School of Law and also holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of South Carolina.

Lynn Zeitlin, Esq.
Lynn Zeitlin is the former Executive Director of Equality Advocates, PA. Prior to that position, she had a distinguished career as a corporate and real estate lawyer and activist. In addition, she has amassed an impressive array of work in the Philadelphia nonprofit and community relations community.

Lynn has worked for such organizations as the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Anti-Defamation League, Head of the Schuylkill Regatta, Philadelphia Bar Association, and Equality Forum.

Jill Katz Zipin, Esq.
Jill Katz Zipin is very involved in community activities, including Woman’s Philanthropy of Jewish Federation, Coordinating Council for the Elderly of Jewish Federation, and Woman’s Leadership Training Program of Jewish Federation. She is politically active and has worked on campaigns for Ruth Damsker and Barak Obama.

Jill is a graduate of Temple University where she also earned her law degree. Her interests include politics, reading, tennis and figure skating.


Is Sexting Criminal Behavior? Not According to JSPAN Board!
by Lynn Gottlieb, JSPAN Executive Director

At its June 24, 2010 meeting, the Board of Directors of the Jewish Social Policy Action Network passed a motion opposing legislation that criminalizes "sexting," the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones. The term was first popularized around 2005 and is a blend of sex and texting.

The action by the JSPAN board was in response to a bill recently proposed in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (PA House Bill 2189), which would create a new offense of “sexting”—the dissemination of prohibited materials by minors via electronic communication. This legislation provides that any minor who knowingly transmits an electronic communication or disseminates a depiction of himself or herself to another minor or possesses a depiction of another minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct commits a misdemeanor of the second degree punishable by up to two years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

The JSPAN Board was concerned about several issues with this legislation. JSPAN objects to the proposed criminalization of telephone communication by texting. In addition, making these acts a crime will not necessarily dissuade people from engaging in them. Most significantly, this law can be used to target innocent text recipients for prosecution.

On June 29, H.B. 2189 passed the House and will now go to the Senate for its consideration. The legislation would create a tiered system, depending on the specific circumstances in question, with offenses ranging from summary to misdemeanors of the second degree.

According to the consensus of the JSPAN board, comprehensive education for teenagers is the better response to the problem of sexting. This includes both internet education, which will help teens understand the need for privacy, as well as sex education. The Healthy Youth Act (House Bill 1163) creates a minimum standard for sex education curriculum in Pennsylvania public schools and mandates discussion of both abstinence and contraception. This bill has passed the House Education Committee and is scheduled for a vote by the full House.

To access the full text of H.B. 2189, click here.

To access the full text of H.B. 1163, click here.


JSPAN Rebukes Longshoremen for Refusing to Unload Israeli Cargo Ship
On June 20, 2010 hundreds of demonstrators, condemning Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, picketed at the Port of Oakland, California, thereby preventing an Israeli cargo ship of the Zim Shipping line from unloading for the day. Two shifts of International Longshoremen's Association members agreed not to cross the AFL-CIO sanctioned picket line, citing concern for their personal safety, and leaving no one to unload the vessel.

On behalf of the JSPAN Board of Directors, Jeff Pasek, Board chair, communicated on June 23 with Rosalind Spigel, regional director of the Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee (JLC). Mr. Pasek's letter below expressed the disappointment of the Board that the longshore workers had chosen "to refuse to handle cargoes arriving from or destined to particular countries," in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling of 1982 which stated that "a political dispute with a foreign nation does nor serve as an excuse" for such behavior.

Mr. Pasek urged the JLC to "play a positive role in helping unions understand that engaging in a boycott of Israeli shipping is not only illegal, but that it will serve to damage the broad and deep support the labor movement has received for many years from the Jewish community."

Soon after receiving the letter, Ms. Spigel informed JSPAN that her organization was actively addressing the issue in several port cities throughout the country and was working with leaders in the labor movement to prevent any recurrence of boycott activities. JSPAN supports these efforts and the role that the Jewish Labor Committee plays in fostering relationships between national and local labor organizations and the Jewish community.



Terror-Free Investing Legislation Passes PA House
Senate Bill 928, the Protecting Pennsylvania's Investments Act, was approved unanimously in the Pennsylvania State House on June 22, 2010. This bill requires the State Treasurer's office, Public School Employees Retirement System, State Employees Retirement System and Pennsylvania Municipal Retiree System to divest the nearly $400 million they directly invest in foreign companies doing business in the oil, energy and military sectors in Iran and Sudan within 36 months.

With its passage, Pennsylvania joins 28 other states in passing legislation to divest from Iran and/or Sudan. State Representative Josh Shapiro (D-Montgomery), initially introduced this legislation in the House 4 years ago. State Representative Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) championed the issue with regard to Sudan and shepherded both the House and Senate versions of the bill through the State Government Committee, and Senator Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia), drafted the final version of the bill that was ultimately passed in both the Senate and House.

Governor Rendell is expected to sign the bill into law within the next week.


Supreme Court Rules on Campus Faith Discrimination
On June 28, 2010, in a closely-watched case the United States Supreme Court ruled that publicly funded school groups do not have a special religious right to discriminate and that public universities could insist that all official student organizations be open to all students regardless of faith or sexual orientation. The decision in Christian Legal Society Chapter of California, Hastings College of the Law v. Martinez, ends state-supported discrimination at the nation's public educational institutions.

The case involved a student group, the Christian Legal Society, which required members to sign a "Statement of Faith" that included a prohibition on certain sexual behavior. In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court stated that such a requirement violated Hasting College's nondiscrimination policy which mandated that registered student groups be open to all comers. Among the groups filing an amicus brief in support of the university's policy were the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), the Anti-Defamation League, People for the American Way Foundation, American Association of University Women, Human Rights Campaign and National Council of Jewish Women.

The Supreme Court decision"reaffirms long-standing precedents that state and local governments can and should prohibit the use of taxpayer-supported public funding to organizations and groups that restrict their membership.," said Dr. Conrad Giles and Rabbi Steve Gutow, chair and president respectively of the JCPA. "It is a shame there are still prominent examples of discrimination in our workplaces and educational institutions. Groups with clearly discriminatory admissions policies should not be bolstered with taxpayer funding or special privileges."

To read the amicus brief submitted by JCPA et al in its entirety, click here.

To read the majority and dissenting opinions of the Supreme Court, click here.

On June 29, 2010 The New York Times added its own perspective to the Supreme Court decision. Click here to read the editorial entitled "The Court and the Bill of Rights: Denying Government Support for Intolerance."


Call Out Baseball: Say No to Arizona's Racist Law
On April 23, 2010, Senate Bill 1070, the nation's toughest legislation on illegal immigration, was signed into law in Arizona. Its aim is to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants. President Obama strongly criticized the bill, saying that it threatened "to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe." The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund predicted that the law would create "a spiral of pervasive fear, community distrust, increased crime and costly litigation, with nationwide repercussions." is dedicated to advancing the interests and promoting the political empowerment of Latino communities across the United States. Founded this year, the organization strives to make Latinos of all nationalities, generations and regions an undeniable force in the economy and an increasingly powerful voting bloc. is part of a national effort working in opposition to SB 1070.

For the past month, has been calling on Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to say NO to anti-Latino and anti-immigrant laws like SB 1070 and to move the 2011 All-Star game out of Phoenix. While Commissioner Selig has publicly ducked the issue, the organization believes that he is actively considering moving the game. It is hoped that he will do the right thing when he hears from enough baseball fans in the coming weeks who want to stand up to hatred and intolerance.

Can you take a moment to call Bud Selig's office and encourage him to move the 2011 All-Star game from Arizona? His number is: (414) 225-8900


Success and Scrutiny at Hebrew Charter School
In the June 25, 2010 issue of The New York Times, Jennifer Medina reported on the successful conclusion of the first year at the Hebrew Language Academy Charter School in Brooklyn, New York. Typical of charter schools around the country, the school is "publicly financed but privately run, ... attract(ing) substantial private support." More significantly, "its classrooms are filled with a broad range of students. ... Perhaps surprisingly, the school has become one of the most racially mixed charter schools in the city," as well as a magnet for children from a mix of religious backgrounds, including Muslims and fundamentalist Christians.

"But despite its diversity, the school still faces scrutiny over how it will handle religion and the complicated politics of the Middle East. ... Some civil libertarians have criticized the school, saying that it is too difficult to navigate the church-state divide, particularly around Israel, a country with explicit ties to a religion." Proponents, on the other hand, claim "that learning about Hebrew and Israeli culture was no different from learning about Bastille Day and baguettes in French class.

"Some parents who are not Jewish said they applied because they were simply eager for their children to learn a second language. But others gave reasons the school would be unlikely to cite in its recruitment brochures." For example, one parent commented , "By going to school with Jewish children, they are going to be getting a good education. ... In that community there's no foolishness when it comes to education."

To read "Success and Scrutiny at Hebrew Charter School" by Jennifer Medina in its entirety, click here.

A Hebrew language charter school in Philadelphia is a possibility for the 2011-2012 school year. To read "Timing's the Principle Concern in Starting Hebrew Charter This Fall" by Jewish Exponent staff writer Bryan Schwartzman, click here.


Where Have All the Real Hasidim Gone?
"What happened to Hasidism? How did a daring and innovative movement for the spiritual regeneration of Judaism turn into a hard core of embittered defenders of a lost past, squabbling constantly among themselves, producing headline-grabbing violators of Jewish ethical norms, and viewing the outside world as entirely defiled and hostile?"

Rabbi Arthur Green is a Reconstructionist rabbi and Rector of the non-denominational rabbinical school at Hebrew College in Newton, Massachusetts. He is a scholar of Jewish mysticism and Hasidism who has played an influential role in bringing the language of spirituality into mainstream American Jewish life. In an essay entitled "Where have all the real Hasidim gone?" which was published in on June 30, 2010, Rabbi Green reflects, "For the past half-century, I have been reading and studying the sources of Hasidism with both affection and respect. ... Over the same time period, however, I have looked with growing dismay at contemporary Hasidism and the various positions it has taken on matters of concern to all Jews.

"The Hasidism that has emerged is a strange combination of inner-directed love and joy, an inheritance from the movement's first period; uncompromising and often hysterical degrees of ultra-Orthodox extremism, combined with shrill denunciations of all other Jews, coming from the second era of Hasidic history; and disdain for the non-Jewish world, the legacy of persecutions old and new.

"Of course there are still sparks of holiness to be found among the Hasidim. ... But most of the movement is pure imitation and entrenchment in the past. ... How shall we who love Hasidism ... relate to the narrowly exclusivist, self-righteous and intolerant version of Judaism that is one face of contemporary Hasidism? The answer is that we need to rescue the Baal Shem Tov from his latter-day followers. The religion of today's Hasidim, themselves victims of a tragic and complex history, cannot be allowed to stand as Hasidism's only legacy."

To read "Where have all the real Hasidim gone?" by Rabbi Arthur Green in its entirety, click here.


The Triumphant Decline of the WASP
Noah Feldman is a professor of law at Harvard Law School, a senior adjunct fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a regular contributor of features and opinion pieces to The New York Times. On June 28, 2010 in an op-ed column in that paper entitled "The Triumphant Decline of the WASP," Professor Feldman opines that "it is a cause for celebration" that this country has "left behind the days" when the religion of a Supreme Court nominee was of major concern.

"But satisfaction with our national progress should not make us forget its authors: the very Protestant elite that founded and long dominated our nation's institutions of higher education and government, including the Supreme Court. Unlike almost every other dominant ethnic, racial or religious group in world history, white Protestants have ceded their socioeconomic power by hewing voluntarily to the values of merit and inclusion, values now shared broadly by Americans of different backgrounds. The decline of the Protestant elite is actually its greatest triumph.

"Why did the Protestant elite open its institutions to all comers? The answer can be traced in large part to the anti-aristocratic ideals of the Constitution, which banned titles of nobility and thus encouraged success based on merit. ... Embedd(ed) in it (is) a distinctive set of beliefs of Protestant origin, including inalienable rights and the separation of church and state. ... Together, these social beliefs in equality undercut the impulse toward exclusive privilege that every successful group indulges on occasion. ... The inclusiveness of the last 50 years has been the product of sincerely held ideals put into action."

Professor Feldman feels that the Protestant elite deserves "a mark of respect for the distinctive ethnic group that opened its doors to all - an accomplishment that must be remembered, acknowledged and emulated."

To read "The Triumphant Decline of the WASP" by Noah Feldman in its entirety, click here.  


Wanted: Two Mad Martyrs, To Make a Mideast Peace
Bradley Burston is an American-born Israeli journalist, a columnist for Haaretz and Senior Editor of, which publishes his blog, "A Special Place in Hell." On June 30, 2010 on the blog he argues that "on the face of it, there is no conflict more thicket-bound, more eye-gouging in its complexity, more heavily barricaded in its resistance to a solution, than the Israeli-Arab morass. ... It comes down to this: The price of making peace is death. No less. The only leader who can make the kinds of political and social sacrifices necessary to forge a solution which provides for an independent Palestine alongside an independent Israel, is the leader who is fully prepared to make the ultimate personal sacrifice.

"What do we need to make peace between Israel and Palestine? A leader on each side who is mad enough and patriotic enough to be willing to be a martyr in the future. ... What kind of person could possibly be willing to take on that kind of challenge, in exchange for nothing more than a place in history and future for millions of children on both sides?

"Precisely the kind we seem to lack at the moment. A genuine hero."

To read "Wanted: Two mad martyrs, to make a Mideast peace" by Bradley Burston in its entirety, click here.


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JSPAN Officers
Brian Gralnick

Kenneth Fox
Vice President

Ruth Laibson
Vice President

Kenneth Myers
Vice President

Stephen Applebaum

Stewart Weintraub
Secretary & General Counsel

Susan Myers
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Jeffrey Pasek, Chair
Alex Urevick
Irwin Aronson
Sheila Ballen
Susan Bolno
Adam Bonin
David S. Broida
Deanne Comer
Hon. Ruth Damsker
Marshall Dayan
William Epstein
Helen Fox
Sarita Gocial
Paula Green
Jordanna Greenwald
Margot Horwitz
Rhoda Indictor
Jerome Kaplan
Lazar Kleit
Judah Labovitz
Rabbi Robert Layman
Theodore Mann
Richard I. Malkin
Norm Newberg
Mark Newman
Maureen Pelta
Adena Potok
Audrey Ann Ross
Ruth Schultz
Randy Schulz
J. Sanford Scwhartz
Daniel Segal
Burt Siegel
Marc Stier
Rabbi David Straus
Rabbi Joshua Waxman
Mike Weilbacher
Deborah Weinstein
Lynn Zeitlin
Jill Katz Zipin

Executive Director:
Lynn Gottlieb, Esq.

Ruth Laibson



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