Why Labor Issues Are Jewish Issues

JSPAN Newsletter - March 11, 2011

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: March 11, 2011
JSPAN Events
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Remembrance at National Museum of American Jewish History

One hundred years ago on March 25th, 1911, the Triangle Waist Company in New York City erupted in flames, and the resulting deaths of 146 people, mostly Jewish and Italian women immigrant workers, many of them teenage girls, galvanized a city and a movement. The Triangle fire was a watershed moment in the history of the American Jewish labor movement and social reform.

On March 24, 2011, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, the Jewish Labor Committee, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN), the Philadelphia Council of the AFL-CIO and the National Museum of American Jewish History are joining forces to commemorate this tragic event, honor those who gave their lives and discuss the evolution of the labor and reform movements that the Triangle fire inspired.

Join us for this extraordinary program, including a documentary film about the fire and its aftermath and viewing of the first floor exhibit at the new National Museum of American Jewish History. Hear about JSPAN's new initiative to advance the Kosher Clothes movement here. Tickets are $36 (students $18) but seating is limited. Advance ticket purchase is absolutely necessary from Ruthanne Madway, JSPAN Executive Director, 215-546-3732



Ethical Choices: When Medicine Can't Save Your Life

Special JSPAN Program


Fabulous Panel: Dr. Arthur Caplan
Rabbi Richard Address
Dr. Susan Denman
Barry Furrow, Esq.
Dr. Michael Levy


Hold The Date: Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 7:30 PM
Main Line Reform Temple Beth Elohim

Details In Next Newsletter!


JSPAN To Be Presented with 2011 Tikun Olam Award
JSPAN is being honored with the 2011 Tikun Olam Award bestowed by Congregation Kol Ami on Friday, April 1, during Erev Shabbat services at the synagogue (7:30 PM), High School Road in Elkins Park.

This annual award has in the past been presented to George R. Burrell, Jr. (Operation Understanding); Sister Mary Scullion (Project H.O.M.E.); Shelly Yanoff (Phila. Citizens for Children and Youth); Dr. Murray Friedman (AJCommittee); Lily Yeh (Village of Arts and Humanities); Gloria Guard (People's Emergency Center); Todd Bernstein (The Citizenship Project - Martin Luther King Day of Service); Seeds of Peace; North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry; HAZON; and MAZON - A Jewish Response to Hunger.

JSPAN’s President Brian Gralnick will accept on behalf of JSPAN. All members are welcome to attend!


Why Labor Issues Are Jewish Issues

The Forward: By Leonard Fein
The Hour (Forward Forum)
Published March 02, 2011, issue of March 11, 2011

There are moments when I envy America’s Roman Catholic Church. I felt that way back in 1983 when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a remarkable pastoral letter on war and peace, and again in 1986 with the USCCB’s “Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy.” These are authoritative documents, bold statements of the normative beliefs of the church.

I felt the same twinge of envy as I read the words of Bishop Stephen Blaire, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in a February 23 letter to Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee. Blaire wrote: “You and our brother bishops in Wisconsin are offering a timely reminder of what the Church teaches on the rights and duties of workers, including the right to form and belong to unions…. these are not just political conflicts or economic choices; they are moral choices with enormous human dimensions. The debates over worker representation and collective bargaining are not simply matters of ideology or power, but involve principles of justice.”

It doesn’t work that way for Jews. We are blessedly non-hierarchical, often indeed bordering on the anarchical. And on the issue at hand, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s effort to neuter his state’s public employee unions, we have taken a pass.

JSPAN Speaks Out: The JSPAN Board approved a resolution on March 7 to support workers’ rights to bargain collectively. It reads: “RESOLVED THAT JSPAN endorses the right of public employees to form, join and assist labor organizations and to be able to engage in concerted activity for mutual aid and protection. JSPAN believes that, except in very limited circumstances, public sector workers deserve the right through their chosen union representatives to engage in collective bargaining. Efforts to bypass collective bargaining rights, only in order to cut expenses to balance public budgets, offend these principles and are entirely inappropriate.” – Ed.


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Natural Gas Drilling in America
America needs to find energy sources to power the economy, generate electricity, heat homes, and reduce dependency on foreign sources, but is the cost worth it? The article below outlines some of those costs. The second entry is a letter to the editor of the New York Times, co-written by Ed Rendell, in response to the article. - Ed

Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers
New York Times: By IAN URBINA
Published: February 26, 2011
The American landscape is dotted with hundreds of thousands of new wells and drilling rigs, as the country scrambles to tap into this century’s gold rush — for natural gas. The gas has always been there, of course, trapped deep underground in countless tiny bubbles, like frozen spills of seltzer water between thin layers of shale rock. But drilling companies have only in recent years developed techniques to unlock the enormous reserves, thought to be enough to supply the country with gas for heating buildings, generating electricity and powering vehicles for up to a hundred years.


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Natural Gas Drilling, in the Spotlight
Published: March 5, 2011
To the Editor:
Re “Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers” (“Drilling Down” series, front page, Feb. 27):

If the goal of your report about natural gas drilling was to gratuitously frighten Pennsylvanians, then congratulations on a job well done. If it was to deliver an evenhanded examination of the critical balance that must be achieved between job creation, energy independence and environmental protection in regions with large natural gas deposits, then it was a mighty swing and a miss.


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Purim Pranks: Will The Real News Item Please Stand Up
In the spirit and tradition of pranks during Purim, one of the articles below is true and the other two are fictitious. Click on the link below to find out which. Were you right? – Ed.

Defibrillator Powered by a Potato
Rachel Schwartzman, a pre-med senior at Brandeis University, and Jason Metzor, a bio-medical engineering graduate student at MIT, have developed a low cost defibrillator for use in rural Africa, where lack of funds and the ability to keep traditional defibrillators charged has led to many needless deaths. Ms. Schwartzman had completed a semester abroad her junior year in Kenya, where she worked in a rural clinic, and observed the lack of defibrillators. “A man died at the clinic I was working at and I thought there’s got to be a better way,” Ms Schwartzman said. Mr. Metzor, who is originally from South Africa, came up with the idea of using potatoes and electrodes as a power source, which are readily available and avoids the problem of having to find electricity to keep the units charged. “Actually,” Mr. Metzor said, “any tuber will work.”

The Happiest Person in America
For the last three years Gallup has called 1,000 randomly selected American adults each day and asked them about their emotional status, work satisfaction, eating habits, illnesses, stress levels and other indicators of their quality of life. The results are plugged into a formula called a Well-Being Index. Gallup was asked to come up with a statistical composite of the happiest person in America. Gallup’s answer: he’s a tall, Asian-American observant Jew who is a least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year. Such a man was found, Alvin Wong of Honolulu – America’s happiest man.

Saving Money By Switching School Vacations
Worried that the public sector collective bargain controversy would spill into Minnesota from neighboring Wisconsin, freshman Minnesota state representative Clint Bunsen has introduced a new bill in the state legislature to significantly lower school costs by switching school vacation from the summer to the winter. "Minnesota has brutal winters,” Mr. Bunsen said. “We estimate we could save the state $800 Million annually by lower heating, snow removal, and busing costs. Let’s face it, the summer vacation has its roots in an agrarian society that just doesn’t exist anymore.” Achieving cost saving of this size would allow state and local municipalities to keep their commitments to staffing levels and pension requirements without raising taxes.

The Real News Item...


A Magic, Budget-Cutting Formula?
The recent GAO report on spending and waste doesn’t say what Republicans wish it did. The Senate has rejected both the House budget bill and Democrat's counter budget bill. The budget impasse continues. - Ed

The New Republic: By Bradford Plumer
March 2, 2011

A quick recap of the standoff over the budget: Republicans want to snip off some $60 billion in government spending for the rest of the year. Democrats are arguing that the steep cuts cheered on by conservatives would hit essential programs that people actually need and use—good-bye Pell Grants, good-bye food-safety inspectors, good-bye well-functioning Social Security administration, and so forth. Worse still, economic forecasters—including Ben Bernanke have argued that slashing federal spending right now would drag down the economy. Is there any way out of this impasse?


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Arabs Rise, Tehran Trembles
New York Times: By Karim Sadjadpour
Op-Ed Contributor
Published: March 5, 2011

IN “Garden of the Brave in War,” his classic memoir of life on a pomegranate farm in 1960s Iran, the American writer Terence O’Donnell recounts how his illiterate house servant, Mamdali, would wake him every morning with a loud knock on the door and a simple question: “Are you an Arab or an Iranian?”

“If I was naked,” O’Donnell explained, “I would answer that I’m an Arab and he would wait outside the door, whereas if I was clothed I would reply that I was an Iranian and he would come in with the coffee.” This joke went hand in hand, O’Donnell wrote, with an age-old chauvinism that depicted the Persians’ Arab neighbors as “uncivilized people who went about unclothed and ate lizards.”

The Islamist victors of the 1979 Iranian revolution intended to change things, to replace the shah’s haughty Persian nationalism with an Arab-friendly, pan-Islamic ideology. Yet Tehran’s official reaction to the 2011 Arab awakening shows that, at the heart of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Middle East strategy, there lays a veiled contempt for Arab intelligence, autonomy and prosperity.


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What the Civil War Meant for American Jews
The Forward: By Jonathan D. Sarna
Published March 01, 2011

The 150th anniversary of the Civil War is upon us. April 12 is the anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter, the war’s opening shot. From then, through the sesquicentennial anniversary on April 9, 2015 of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House and five days later of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, every major event in the “ordeal of the union” seems likely to be recounted, re-enacted, reanalyzed and, likely as not, verbally re-fought.

The American Jewish community, meanwhile, has expressed little interest in these commemorations. A few books, a play, a film and a forthcoming scholarly conference form the totality of the Jewish contribution to the sesquicentennial. When I suggested a talk on the Civil War and the Jews in one setting, the organizers questioned the relevance of the whole topic. Only a small minority of Jews, they observed, boast ancestors who participated in the Civil War. By the time most Jewish immigrants to America arrived, the war was but a distant memory.

Fifty years ago, for the Civil War centennial, the level of interest within the Jewish community seemed noticeably higher. New York’s Jewish Museum mounted a grand exhibit titled “The American Jew in the Civil War.” Fully 260 photographs, documents and objects appeared in the multi-gallery show. It was the largest display of Jewish Civil War memorabilia ever assembled.


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Arnost Lustig, Who Wrote Tales of Holocaust, Dies at 84
New York Times: By Dennis Hevesi
Published: March 5, 2011

Arnost Lustig, an acclaimed Czech author who drew on his own harrowing experiences as a teenager in World War II to produce novels and short stories laced with tales of young people who survive the Holocaust, died on Feb. 26 in Prague. He was 84.The embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington confirmed his death.

As a 15-year-old Jew, Mr. Lustig was sent in 1942 to Theresienstadt, the Nazi “show ghetto” in what is now the Czech Republic. Later he was transported to Auschwitz and then Buchenwald. In 1945 he escaped from a train carrying him to Dachau, when the engine was destroyed by an American fighter bomber.


[read more]



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Alex Urevick
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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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