We Need Your Help - So Does the America We Love

JSPAN Newsletter - September 7, 2012
Jewish Social Policy Action Network

The Officers and Board of JSPAN wish you and yours a healthy, happy and peaceful Shanah Tovah, 5773.
Newsletter: September 7, 2012

We Need Your Help - So Does the America We Love
The following is a Rosh Hashanah message from Larry Gold, Chair, and Rabbi Steven Gutow, Executive Director, of JCPA.

The season is upon us. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the days when we look at who we are and who we must become. When the two of us look around, of course we take stock of the parts of ourselves that need review and repair and commit to making changes. But as we look around in this lead-up to the holidays, we see something in our country so disturbing and so contrary to our Jewish values that we are personally standing up to take action this autumn. We are joining rabbis and cantors of all denominations across the United States in taking the Food Stamp Challenge to respond to the incredible problem of hunger that blankets the landscape of our country, the most powerful nation in the world. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Uri L'Tzedek, the Cantors Assembly, and the American Conference of Cantors are asking Jews around America to say that in this season we must make a statement, take a stand, and demand that hunger be stopped in this great land of ours. This unusual and powerful coalition spanning the entire Jewish denominational world reflects the urgency of this cause.

First-what is the fuss? -- In the midst of economic turmoil and threats of severe cuts to government programs to address our nation's debt and deficit, hunger in America has reached catastrophic levels with no relief in sight. Recent studies highlight this disturbing trend: between 2007 and 2009, the number of households struggling with hunger increased more than 33%, with nearly one in four U.S. households with children unable to afford enough food. We are talking about children here! The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the U.S. poverty rate rose to 15.1% in 2010, with one out of every six Americans, or 46.2 million, living in poverty. More people are on the streets, more are seeking sustenance, more children are going to bed hungry-this is not acceptable in the America that we know.

Yet even as the number of Americans enduring the gnawing pain of hunger increases, proven federal hunger relief programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) are being targeted for significant cuts and potential restructuring that would irreparably limit the government's ability to bring relief to millions of Americans suffering from hunger. Sadly, there is a deafening silence when it comes to protecting programs that serve the poor, the hungry, and the downtrodden. We cannot and will not and must not, particularly in these profoundly important days of awe, be silent.

Here is what you can do: In response, rabbis and cantors across the country will join together to take the Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge and for one week live on the average food stamp allotment of $31.50, or just $1.50 per meal. For more information on the program and how to register visit: www.foodstampchallenge.com

Taking the Challenge will help us and those around us gain an understanding of the challenges that millions of Americans go through every day. We will share reflections about our experiences in taking the Challenge and, together, we hope that you will feel inspired to join us in lending our voices to support programs and policies that make a difference in the fight to end hunger in the U.S.

During these days of looking at ourselves and seeing what changes must be made, taking the Challenge or supporting it will help us gain empathy for the millions in this country who struggle to put food on their tables every day. . . .


Asian American Groups Urge PA Supreme Court to Strike Down Discriminatory Voter ID Law
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (Aug 29, 2012)

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association (APABA) of Pennsylvania filed an amicus "friend of the court" brief in the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's restrictive voter ID requirement in Applewhite v. Pennsylvania. The amicus brief was prepared by AALDEF and pro-bono counsel White & Case LLP.

"Pennsylvania's voter ID law disenfranchises Asian Americans and prevents racial and language minorities from exercising their fundamental right to vote," said Margaret Fung, Executive Director of AALDEF.

[read more]

JCPA is participating in the Applewhite case as an amicus. JSPAN is also part of the Voter ID Coalition of the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Committee of Seventy, the Philadelphia AFL-CIO Council and the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and others, to help people secure Voter ID over the next eight weeks. The League will bring caravans of voters to the Bureau starting this week. Some voters will need assistance with the process of securing a new photo ID. Some Motor Vehicle Bureau personnel may need polite assistance as well. Our job is to greet the voters and help them secure ID.

Will you sign ups for this important work? And will you find a friend who will also sign up to work for an honest election? JSPAN members tell us to organize more real time projects. Here is a project that is important, that is in the very best spirit of democracy, and that is so easy to carry out on your time schedule! Sign up now! – Ed.

Call LWV Coordinators for a time slot:

Joan Lukas joan.lukas@me.com 215-563-9430

Barbara Dietrich badiet508@gmail.com 267-350-2461


Clout: GOP is Fighting Pa. 3rd-party Candidacies
Philly.com (August 28, 2012)

IT'S A SAFE bet we'll be hearing a lot of talk about freedom from the podium at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this week, assuming that Tropical Storm Isaac doesn't linger over the Tampa Bay Times Center and wash the GOP delegates out into Hillsborough Bay. But you probably won't hear as much about what the GOP is up to right now in Philadelphia, where angry activists accuse the party of squelching the freedom to vote in Pennsylvania for third-party presidential candidates.

The Republican Party of Pennsylvania is behind aggressive challenges to petition signatures that have already caused the candidate of the Constitution Party, former Virginia U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode Jr., to abandon his effort in the state and is threatening the ballot status of Libertarian Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico.

[read more]


Opinion: Jewish Tradition Has Much to Say About Workers and Bosses
Stuart Appelbaum, Jewish Exponent (August 29, 2012)

When Congress declared Labor Day a public holiday in 1894, workers had more to lament than to celebrate: an economic depression, a growing concentration of corporate wealth and power, and the brutal suppression of their unions. A momentous national railroad strike to protest deep wage cuts -- and the summary firing of workers who dared to voice their grievances -- was ruthlessly broken with the help of the U.S. attorney general and federal troops, leaving more than 30 workers dead and the strike's leader, Eugene Victor Debs, in jail.

Nevertheless, in those bleak times, there was something for workers in the United States to celebrate: A broad notion of solidarity had begun to take root, defining an injury to any one worker as an injury to all. That solidarity, directly countering the forces that divided working people, sustained and strengthened the labor movement in the years to come. A strong labor movement, in turn, worked to build the middle class and strengthen our democracy. This resonated with the Jewish communities of the day, largely immigrants and children of immigrants who knew what communal solidarity and mutual aid were all about. It was no accident that Jewish workers were among the ranks of the U.S. labor movement, with Jews making a lasting impression at key labor unions such as the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union and the American Federation of Teachers.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Jewish Labor Committee, is also the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, representing workers in the United States and Canada.

[read more]


Reprieve May Be Last-Minute, but Justices' Preparation Never Is
ADAM LIPTAK. New York Times (September 3, 2012)

WASHINGTON - John Balentine was an hour away from being put to death in Texas last month when the Supreme Court granted him a stay of execution.

The unseemly and unsettling spectacle of a last-minute legal scramble in the shadow of the ultimate deadline, with the condemned inmate waiting for word of his fate just outside the death chamber, may suggest that the Supreme Court does not render considered justice when it is asked to halt an execution.

But it tries. Indeed, the court goes to extraordinary lengths to get ready, and its point person is a staff lawyer named Danny Bickell.

"Cases where there is an execution date," he said with a sigh, "that's where I come in."

Mr. Bickell's formal title is emergency applications clerk, but capital defense lawyers have an informal title for him, too. They call him the death clerk.

[read more]


Obama Administration Reaffirms no Healthcare Support for Undocumented Immigrants
John Dorschner, Miami Herald (August 31, 2001)

After President Barack Obama raised publicity in June with his declaration that 800,000 young undocumented immigrants could remain and work in the United States, his administration quietly issued a rule this week declaring that these immigrants can't benefit from the healthcare reform law.

The Department of Health and Human Services released a rule amendment to clarify that the Affordable Care Act, which offers coverage to those "lawfully present" in the United States, did not apply to those mentioned in Obama's June declaration.

The amendment means that the undocumented immigrants will not be able to join the Pre-Existing Condition Plan for high-risk patients and the healthcare exchanges being established to help people and small businesses obtain cheaper rates. The immigrants will also not be able to get into state-federal programs such as Medicaid, the health insurance for the poor, or the Children's Health Insurance Program.

[read more]


Judge Dismisses Wheaton College Lawsuit against Obama Administration over Contraception Mandate
Manya A. Brachear, Chicago Tribune (August 28, 2012)

A federal judge has dismissed Wheaton College's lawsuit against the Obama administration for requiring the evangelical Christian college to offer health insurance that covers the cost of contraception, including the morning-after pill, for employees.

The judge's decision comes just two weeks after the west suburban college was granted an additional year to meet the requirement.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled that the lawsuit was premature because the government would not enforce the mandate against Wheaton until August 2013 and promised to revise the mandate to accommodate some religious institutions before it goes into effect.

[read more]


Abortion Ban Backers Fail to Make Colorado Ballot
By Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press (August 29, 2012)

DENVER-The nation's only pending ballot measure to ban abortion in all circumstances has failed to advance to voters in Colorado. Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced Wednesday that backers of the divisive "personhood" amendment fell about 3,900 valid signatures short of the some 86,000 needed.

The rejection was a major setback for abortion foes in the home state of Personhood USA, which said the Colorado proposal was the only measure pending for ballots this fall. Other initiatives are aimed for future years but not this fall, Personhood USA spokeswoman Jennifer Mason said Wednesday.

[read more]


BOOK REVIEW: Elie Wiesel's 'Hostage' is in a Contrived Situation
David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times (August 19, 2012)

A Novel

Elie Wiesel, translated from the French by Catherine Temerson
Alfred A. Knopf: 214 pp., $25.95

It's hard to read Elie Wiesel's new novel, "Hostage," without thinking about his classic Holocaust recollection, "Night." That's partly because both deal with captivity, and even more with questions of faith and identity and our place in the universe, at a moment when such elements appear to have been rendered moot. But even more, "Hostage," like "Night," begs the question of how we read it - of the type of document it is.

In the case of the earlier book, that tension (and it is very much a tension) has to do with the line between fact and fiction, between literal and metaphorical truth. This isn't suggesting that Wiesel invented his experience, just that, in the effort to re-create it, he shifts into allegory when it suits him, transforming his suffering into something universal, a vision of a world from which God has gone.

[read more]


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JSPAN Officers
Lynn Zeitlin

Judah Labovitz
Vice President

Mark Newman
Vice President

Burt Siegel
Vice President

Kenneth Myers

Stewart Weintraub
Secretary & General Counsel

Jeffrey Pasek
Chair of the Board of Directors

Irwin Aronson
Susan Bolno
Adam Bonin
David Boonin
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Marshall Dayan
William Epstein
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Margot Horwitz
Rhoda Indictor
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Jill Katz Zipin
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Gail Zukerman

Judah Labovitz
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Ira Goldberg


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