Social Justice Advocacy and Education 2014

JSPAN Newsletter - January 24, 2014

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: January 24, 2014
Caring About Philly Schools: Masch Presents Advocacy Options to JSPAN Board
"Financing Public Schools in Philadelphia" was the topic of Mike Masch's highly informative presentation at the December meeting of the JSPAN Board of Directors. Masch, currently Vice President for Finance and CFO of Manhattan College, was formerly the CFO for the School District of Philadelphia, and before that budget director for Governor Rendell in Harrisburg, and for Mayor Rendell in Philadelphia.

Masch emphasized the role that decreased state funding plays in the current budget crisis in Philadelphia and described how state cuts to aid to Philadelphia schools have been disproportionate when compared with other regions of the Commonwealth. He also explained how the School District spends its money, noting those items that are mandated by law. In his view, the District budget is spent on very basic, no frills items. With respect to charter schools, Masch discussed the role that they can and should play.

After a brief question and answer session, Masch left the Board with two highly informative handouts: (1) Possible Policy Advocacy Options for Groups That Care About Fair, Effective Public Education in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania and (2) Questions and Answers-Public Education in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. To see the exhibits referenced in the questions and answers, click here.

JSPAN presently is organizing a policy center focused on education reform. If you are interested in participating on this new group, please contact JSPAN President Rabbi George Stern, or JSPAN Policy Center Chair, Jeffrey I. Pasek, Esquire,


Taking Action Against Hunger
By Margot Horwitz

The statistics about hunger in this country are startling: one in six Americans are hungry, and one in eight people in Pennsylvania struggle with food insecurity (one in four in Philadelphia.) Worse, these figures are up 50% from ten years ago-these facts are beyond frightening.

But we have an opportunity to act right now, according to Julie Zaebst, Policy Director of the Coalition Against Hunger. At a time when Congress is about to act on the Farm Bill, every one of us should contact our representative and implore him or her to protect SNAP (food stamps). There are, not surprisingly, two different bills-House and Senate-and there should be intense effort within the next week to insure that as little as possible is cut from the lifeline that literally keeps people from starving.

We should also get involved in public policy issues by signing up with the Coalition and other local groups to learn specific ways we can help fight food insecurity. Such advocacy will also include reaching out to the 600,000 area children who are eligible for free or reduced priced food-but who have not signed up for it.


[read more]


Watch JSPAN Board Member Babette Josephs Having Fun on New TV Show
In "Conversations Across Time," Vivienne Crawford and Babette Josephs host discussions about current events with past historical personalities, challenging decisions and illustrating the impact those decisions have on current world politics. Some "guests"-played by actors, include former Presidents, Jefferson, Lincoln and Eisenhower; Christopher Columbus; Tupac Shakur;Fidel Castro; Tsar Nicholas II; Malcom X and Eleanor Roosevelt.

According to Josephs, former Democratic State Representative, "It's a panel show where not polite discussions are held with 'immortals.' What they did and thought is made relevant to what is going on today." The show is aired on public access TV - PCM - Channel 66 or 966 on Verizon Comcast or Channel 29 or 30, on Tuesday evenings at 10 PM.


See Yourself in Pictures?-2013 Social Justice Award Event Photo Album is Now Online
Last month the Jewish Social Policy Action Network honored local attorney and advocate for equality Mark A. Aronchick for his outstanding efforts in civil rights and judicial reform at its 9th annual Social Justice Award event on November 25, 2013. The Social Justice Award honors individuals whose life work fulfills the mission of advocacy, education, and action in pursuit of social justice and tikkun olam - "repairing the world."

More than 120 people attended the festivities and program. Our guest speaker was former U.S. Congressman and MSNBC Contributor, Patrick J. Murphy. To view photos from the event courtesy of JSPAN Board of Directors member Audrey Ann Ross, read more:


[read more]


Court Overturns Voter ID Law: Send Gov. Corbett Message Not to Appeal
Last week, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania struck down Pennsylvania's highly restrictive Voter ID law. The Court ruled that the law is "invalid and unconstitutional on its face as the provision and issuance of compliant identification does not comport with liberal access and unreasonably burdens the right to vote . . . . Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal."

Last fall, JSPAN joined in an amicus brief filed by the Senior Law Center, AARP and others arguing that the law would adversely affect older Pennsylvanians.

It is possible for this ruling to be appealed. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett may appeal the Commonwealth Court's ruling to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania where the law could be held constitutional.

To send a message to Governor Corbett letting him know that you agree with the Commonwealth Court decision and encouraging him not to appeal, you can sign a petition sponsored by


[read more]



PA Voter ID Law Struck Down; Next Battle-Expanding the Gerrymander
Ken Myers, a Vice President of JSPAN and lawyer at the Norristown firm of High Swartz LLP, submits the following comment on the Commonwealth Court's recent decision invalidating the PA Voter ID law. - Ed.

By Kenneth R. Myers, Esquire

We in Pennsylvania are subject to more than one attack on the sanctity of the ballot box.

The detailed and careful opinion of Judge Herman McGinley enjoining the voter identification law takes effect subject to the high likelihood of an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. That Court's 2012 ruling withheld decision on the merits of the law, instead questioning the practical impact on voters. So there is no foretelling the result in the coming appeal.

Meanwhile, the next battle to defeat the wishes of the voting public is the proposal to award Pennsylvania's electoral votes in presidential elections on the basis of the tally by Congressional district. As a result of the very successful gerrymander of those districts, Republicans cast less than half the votes statewide yet elected 13 out of 18 of our state Congressional delegation in 2012. According to analysts, despite the fact that President Obama won Pennsylvania by more than 5 points in 2012, he probably would have won only 7 of the state's 20 electoral votes if this vote rigging plan had been in effect. Read more:


[read more]


JSPAN, NAACP & KI Sponsored MLK Day Panel on Mass Incarceration
Just as Jim Crow once directly targeted African Americans, incarceration continues to fall disproportionately on communities of color. The racial, political and economic implications of "Mass Incarceration" were the topic of a dynamic and engaging panel discussion at the 4th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial program cosponsored by the Cheltenham Area Branch of the NAACP, Congregation Keneseth Israel and the Jewish Social Policy Action Network.

The panel of academic and community experts featured (1) Michael Coard, Esquire, Chair of ATAC-Avenging the Ancestors Coalition, (2) Angus Love, Esquire, Director of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, (3) Dr. Doreen Loury, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice at Arcadia University, and (4) Wayne Jacobs, Co-Founder of X-Offenders for Community Empowerment. Troy Wilson, Esquire, founding partner of the law firm of Wilson & Wilson, LLP, moderated the panel and fielded numerous questions and comments from the audience of over a hundred people in the sanctuary at KI on the evening of January 20.


[read more]


JSPAN Examines Income Inequality Gap: Save the Date for Robert Reich's film, Inequality for All
President Obama has said inequality is the major issue of our time. The Pope says it's of major concern. The Wall Street Journal is writing about how and where the Right and Left agree on inequality.

Plan now to attend JSPAN's 2014 community forums focusing on the issue of income inequality in America. Mark your calendar for a viewing of former U.S. Department of Labor Commissioner Robert Reich's film, Inequality for All, on the afternoon of March 2, and a follow-up panel discussion on March 9, both at Germantown Jewish Center, 400 West Ellet Street, Philadelphia.

"A passionate argument on behalf of the middle class, INEQUALITY FOR ALL features Robert Reich- professor, best-selling author, and Clinton cabinet member-as he demonstrates how the widening income gap has a devastating impact on the American economy. The film is an intimate portrait of a man who's overcome a great deal of personal adversity and whose lifelong goal remains protecting those who are unable to protect themselves. Through his singular perspective, Reich explains how the massive consolidation of wealth by a precious few threatens the viability of the American workforce and the foundation of democracy itself. In this INCONVENIENT TRUTH for the economy, Reich uses humor and a wide array of facts to explain how the issue of economic inequality affects each and every one of us."


[read more and watch the trailer]


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JSPAN Officers
Rabbi George Stern

Deborah Weinstein
First Vice President

Judah Labovitz
Vice President

Richard I. Malkin
M.D., Vice President

Kenneth R. Myers
Vice President

Burt Siegel
Vice President

Jay Meadway

David Gutin
Assistant Treasurer

Joanna Klein

Jeffrey Pasek
Policy Center Chair

Stewart Weintraub
General Counsel

Irwin Aronson
Susan Bolno
Adam Bonin
Hon. Ruth Damsker
William Epstein
Brian Gralnick
Margot Horwitz
Adrienne Jacoby Ph.D.
Hon. Babette Josephs
Nathan Kleinman
Marlena Kleit
Ruth Laibson
Theodore Mann
Adena Potok
Audrey Ann Ross
J. Sanford Schwartz M.D.
Dan Segal
Marc Stier Ph.D.
Rabbi David Straus
Ilene Wasserman Ph.D.
Lynn G. Zeitlin
Jill Katz Zipin
Gail Zukerman

Marlena Kleit
Judah Labovitz
Ken Myers
Deborah Weinstein

Ira Goldberg




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