June 2016


JSPAN Newsletter - June 2016

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In this Issue:
Newsletter: June 2016
Bend the Arc Holds First National Conference and We Are There!
JSPAN was well-represented at the Bend the Arc's first national conference held in Washington, D.C. in early June when over 500 progressive Jews gathered for "Pursuing Justice 2016." Board members Katie Beran, Ed Hoffman, Bill Epstein, Jonathan Lipson, Rebecca Kirzner and Andrea Jacobs were joined at the conference by JSPAN Executive Director Rabbi George Stern and new JSPAN law student intern, Julia Shmilovich, JSPAN member Lynne Jacobs and others from the Philadelphia area Jewish community. JSPAN is the local affiliate of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice which, like JSPAN, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization devoted to education. The Bend the Arc family of organizations also includes Bend the Arc Jewish Action, a 501(c)(4) advocacy group, and Bend the Arc Jewish Action PAC, a political action committee. For an inside look at the conference, check out JSPAN Executive Director Rabbi George Stern's personal account of his experience and thoughts regarding about the three-day event.


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JSPAN Applauds U.S. Supreme Court Decision Striking Down Texas Abortion Law Restrictions
JSPAN applauds the U.S. Supreme Court's decision striking down as unconstitutional restrictions imposed by Texas law on abortion clinics that the Court held imposed an "undue burden" on women's access to abortion. JSPAN is firmly committed to supporting a woman's right to access safe and legal abortion services and has consistently opposed restrictions on that right. Earlier this year, the organization joined with other religious organizations in an amicus brief to the Court in this case stating that "Many religious traditions recognize and support the moral right of each woman to make her own decisions about her pregnancy in accordance with her faith and conscience. All women-including the poor and less fortunate among us-should be able to exercise that right without unnecessary constraints or impediments."


ACLU Challenges U.S. Funding Religious Organizations for Unaccompanied Minor Immigrant Care: Excluding Contraception, Abortion On Religious Grounds
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell determined not to decide whether the rights of a group of nonprofit organizations had been substantially burdened, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), by Federal regulations requiring them to include contraceptives in their employee health insurance coverage without first submitting a form stating they object on religious grounds. JSPAN joined in an amicus brief prepared by ADL that supported the government's position. The Court remanded the Zubik case with instructions that the Courts of Appeal "allow the parties sufficient time to resolve any outstanding issues between them." In the meantime, the scope of the requirement that religious organizations include birth control and abortion in healthcare coverage remains unresolved in many circumstances and, in the case reported below, it appears, to the detriment of unaccompanied minor immigrants.-Ed.

The ACLU together with its Northern and Southern California affiliates has sued the U.S. government in federal court over tax dollars provided to religious organizations for the care, including medical care, of unaccompanied immigrant minors, alleging that the groups unlawfully deny these youths access to contraception and abortion, even in cases of rape. The suit claims that by authorizing government grantees to impose religiously based restrictions on young women's access to reproductive health care– care that they are entitled to receive by law – the government has violated the constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and state.

According to the ACLU, groups like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have been awarded upwards of $10 million annually to care for these young people, despite their explicit refusal to allow these young women to access contraception and abortion. Placing restrictions on reproductive health care has devastating consequences for this population. A high number of unaccompanied immigrant minors have reportedly been raped in their home countries or during their journey to the United States, and therefore they have an acute need for critical reproductive health care.


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To read the ACLU's complant click here.


Massacre In Orlando Has Ripped Off the Veil, and Now is the Time to Act
Don't miss this important call to action by Anndee Hochman in which she juxtaposes observing Shavuot, unveiling her father's gravestone, the magnificence of artistic expression and the beauty of family with the massacre in Orlando, and asks "How is it that human beings can create such gifts, soul-shaking and mind-bending works of art like "Hamilton" and "Spring Awakening," and also produce the deadening hatred and fear that compels a man into a gay club at 2 a.m., armed with a legally acquired killing machine?" Describing the Orlando massacre as a "moment of communal revelation, Hochman reminds us that "we are not just spectators in this life," and challenges the reader to "Quick. Do something for good. Do it now, while the veil is off and our eyes are stinging with tears at all we have made possible, the wreckage and the brilliance, and all that we must do next."-Ed

WHYY/Speak Easy
By Anndee Hochman
June 13, 2016

My 15-year-old, perpetually gummed to her phone, was the first to tell me. "Ama, do you know about Orlando?"? She whispered a few details - a shooter, a gay club, lots of people dead. But I couldn't give the news my full attention, because I was with a bunch of relatives, eating bagels and fruit salad following the unveiling, just that morning, of my father's gravestone.? We Jews bury our dead quickly - within three days, according to custom - and mourn at length. Seven days sequestered at home, 30 days of subdued activity (work, yes; parties, no), 11 months of murmuring the mourners' prayer every morning or evening.


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JSPAN Urges End to Violence, Sends Condolences to Orlando Massacre Victims and Grieving Families
JSPAN has sent heartfelt condolences and sincere support to the victims of the horrendous massacre in Orlando, Florida, and to their grieving families. No words can adequately express the outrage we feel at the immoral violation of the sanctity of life perpetrated by Omar Mateen, no matter the explanation for his behavior.

Dedicated to civil liberties, including the right of all citizens to live without fear of violence and prejudice, we applaud the many officials and leaders who have expressed justifiable anger without stigmatizing particular groups. Utterances of hate and inflammatory language have no legitimate place in civil society; they neither allay fears nor bring an end to moral failure. JSPAN stands in solidarity with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and with those of every faith and ethnicity who value the lives of every human being, all created in God's image.


Board Meeting: Meet JSPAN Board Member Adam Garber
By Edward Hoffman

Meet new JSPAN Board Member Adam Garber, Field Director for Penn Environment, a statewide environmental non-profit that promotes policies at the state and federal level to clean up our air and water and protect parks and open spaces. Adam is a third-generation American-a twin-who hails from Atlanta, Georgia where, at his Conservative synagogue, Ahavat Achim, he first began working to save the environment. An avid reader, he's interested in many other social justice issues, especially immigration civil rights, and economic justice.


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JSPAN Board Supports Philadelphia Sugary Beverage Tax: Good for Public Education and Health
During the Philadelphia City Council debate on taxation of sugary beverages, the JSPAN Board engaged in a vibrant debate on the issue. Ultimately, a majority of the Board voted in support of the following resolution: "The Jewish Social Policy Action Network supports Philadelphia's proposed tax on sugary beverages to provide full funding for Mayor Kenney's initiatives for universal pre-K, community schools that offer services like health care, and major renovations to parks, recreation centers, and libraries. Much of the benefit would go to at-risk children and neighborhoods in a city with a 26% poverty rate, the highest among America's largest cities."

"We believe that this proposal is the best, and perhaps only way, to fund these valuable educational services for the poorest members of our society. In addition, by reducing the consumption of these beverages, the tax may have benefits to public health, particularly in the struggle against childhood obesity and diabetes. In both instances, our city would be investing in the future by giving our children the best possible start in life from an educational and health standpoint."

"JSPAN, based on the teachings of Jewish tradition, is on record as supporting initiatives that advance the scope and quality of public education and acknowledge the community's stake in public health. We believe that this tax will advance both goals."


PA High Court: NRA Can't Challenge Local Gun Laws
Dealing a blow to the gun lobby in the Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a law that allowed organizations such as the National Rifle Association to challenge local gun control laws in courts. JSPAN works with CeaseFirePA and other organizations to press our legislators to adopt better gun controls. The Court's ruling keeps the door open for enacting local government measures to improve gun control and violence prevention-Ed.

The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Karen Langley
June 20, 2016

HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday declined to reinstate a law that gave groups like the National Rifle Association the right to challenge local gun-control rules in court. Commonwealth Court overturned the law last year on the ground that the legislative process used to make it had violated the state constitution. The gun provision had been added to a bill that addressed the theft of metals.

The Supreme Court agreed "that the legislature violated the single-subject rule in an effort to pass an unpopular and irrational bill without being noticed," said Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), who led the lawsuit challenging the law.

House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati had appealed the Commonwealth Court ruling. Drew Crompton, the Senate GOP general counsel, said he assumed the Senate would try again to pass such a proposal, adding that some towns were going overboard in regulating gun sales.



Muslim Officer Sues New York Police Dept. Over No-Beard Policy
The New York Times
By Ashley Southall
June 22, 2016

In the debate over beards in business settings, the New York Police Department officially stands opposed, with limited exceptions for officers seeking a medical or religious accommodation.

The department's no-beard policy, as it is known, is at the center of a federal class-action lawsuit filed on Wednesday on behalf of a Muslim police officer who says he was suspended during the fasting month of Ramadan for refusing to shave his one-inch beard. The lawsuit, brought by Masood Syed, 32, aims to force the Police Department to change a policy that his lawyers say infringes on the rights of more than 100 officers seeking to exercise their religious freedoms without fear of discrimination or retaliation.


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Your Opinion Counts

The editors of the JSPAN newsletter welcome reader's comments regarding the content and format of the newsletter. We want to know what you like and dislike. Are we providing a perspective and service that you find informative and worth reading? Do you have comments on specific articles or items? Let us know what you think! Send all comments to jspan@jspan.org




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JSPAN Officers
Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom

Katie Beran, Vice President
Ruth Damsker, Vice President
Rabbi Seth Goren, Vice President
Burt Siegel
Vice President

Marc Stier
Vice President

Jill Katz Zipin
Vice President

Joanna Klein

George Pomerantz

Edward Hoffman, Assistant Treasurer
Stewart Weintraub
General Counsel

Rabbi George Stern
Executive Director

Brian Gralnick
Past President

Deborah Weinstein
Past President

Irwin Aronson
Lauren Beller
Adam Bonin
William Epstein
Adam Garber
Ilana Goldfus
Margot Horwitz
Andrea Jacobs
Adrienne Jacoby
Babette Josephs
Rebecca Kirzner
Nathan Kleinman
Marlena Kleit
Judah Labovitz
Ruth Laibson
Jonathan Lipson
Richard Malkin
Theodore Mann
Jeffrey Pasek
Audrey Ann Ross
J. Sanford Schwartz
Bryan Schwartzman
Daniel Segal
Dan Siegel
Sena Singer
Rabbi David Straus
Lynn Zeitlin z"l


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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