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JCPA Insider

Volume 12, Number 2
January 12, 2009

Please note:  Insider will be on vacation January 19, 2009 in observation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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In This Issue
Iran Initiative
JCPA/UJC Israel Advocacy Initiative
Save Darfur
This Week in Washington
JCPA Programs

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JCPA speaks to you each week, alerting you to what the community relations field is doing to safeguard the rights of Jews here, in Israel, and around the world and to protect, preserve and promote a just, democratic and pluralistic American society. For three generations, we have brought together diverse voices in the Jewish community to unite a strong Jewish public policy force.

We hope you will continue to enjoy our three weekly emails.

About Us
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) is the united voice of the organized Jewish community.  For over half a century, the JCPA has served as an effective mechanism to identify issues, formulate policy, develop strategies and programs, and has given expression to a strongly united Jewish communal voice. By virtue of the JCPA's unique position and structure, our ability to reach out and motivate Jews and non-Jews alike to action is unparalleled. Through our network of 14 national and 125 local equal and independent partner agencies, the JCPA serves as a catalyst that heightens community awareness, encourages civic and social involvement, and deliberates key issues of importance to the Jewish community.

JCPA was formally established as National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC) in 1944 by the Council of Jewish Federations to be the public affairs branch of the organized Jewish community.  The name was changed to the Jewish Council for Public Affairs in 1997 to reflect more accurately the mission of the agency..

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Iran Initiative
Iran Foreign Ministry: Iran Considering Obama's Remarks.  Iran's Foreign Ministry said on January 12 that Teheran was watching to see if remarks about engagement by US president-elect Barack Obama would lead to a change in US policy toward the Islamic regime. Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi said in his weekly news briefing that the government would be watching to see if Obama's remarks "lead to essential change" in US behavior towards Iran. If there was real change, Iran would take the appropriate matching actions, he added in Monday's briefing. Earlier this week Obama told ABC news channel that he wanted to improve relations with Iran, describing a "new approach" involving engagement. Read the article from the Jerusalem Post here.
JCPA/UJC Israel Advocacy Initiative
Rallies Across North America:  A Week of Solidarity with Israel.  More than 65 communities across North America participated in Rallies Across North America:  A Week of Solidarity with Israel, showing that the Jewish community stands with our brothers and sisters in Israel and around the world as One People, with One Destiny. Nationally, this week of events was sponsored by the United Jewish Communities (UJC), and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America were coordinating partners.  Speakers included member of Congress, state and local elected officials, civic leaders, and non-Jewish community leaders.  Thousands of people gathered at these rallies to express their solidarity with Israel.  Click here to view the list of solidarity gatherings as part of this week-long event.  

The IAI Responds to the Crisis in Gaza.  Since Israel's operation "Cast Lead" in Gaza began, the IAI has been monitoring the situation and proactively responding.  The IAI has convened conference calls, in partnership with the Conference of Presidents, featuring top Israeli officials such as Ambassador Salla Meridor, Major General Benjamin Gantz, MK Avi Dichter, and MK Yitzchak Herzog, to offer the latest developments on the ground.   The IAI also hosted an Israel perspectives call with Ambassador Colette Avital to engage our interfaith friends on the developments.  

The IAI has worked with dozens of individual communities to address local concerns.  The written materials that the IAI has disseminated include a press release supporting the Israeli operation in Gaza; comprehensive talking points, updates as developments unfold; a model op-ed piece on Israel's operation in Gaza focusing on its goals and Israel's humanitarian efforts towards the civilians in Gaza; a template of a letter to members of Congress; statements from U.S. officials on the crisis; and background information on the Israeli operation including op-eds, editorials and other analysis.  In addition, the IAI is spurring nationwide "Gatherings for Peace and Solidarity with Israel" events as well as coordinating an American Voices in Israel tour for bloggers, broadcast, and radio journalists.

The Israel Advocacy Initiative is updating its website continuously as developments unfold.  Please continue visit the IAI website here.

Recommended Reading.  On Monday January 5 Ian O'doherty published "Why the Israeli People Have Finally Had Enough" in the Independent. He writes, "So, it's genocide now, is it? Or is it actually another holocaust, something which one typically restrained Palestinian analyst described as "worse than Hitler's war against the Jews"? Are we watching the ethnic cleansing of an entire people? Are we witnessing the deliberate eradication of a race? Well, no actually, we're not. Yet the conventional dinner party wisdom which we've had to put up with in the media, both here in Ireland and generally across Britain, is that somehow Israel is the aggressor in the rapidly worsening situation in Gaza…The problem with that conclusion -- and it's not something you're going to learn from the BBC and most other outlets -- is that, contrary to the currently popular belief, Israel is actually acting with a ridiculous degree of restraint." Read the full editorial here.
Save Darfur
Be a Voice for Darfur.  The Be a Voice for Darfur campaign is an effort to demonstrate that Darfur needs to be a priority from day one of President Obama's administration. The campaign aims to show the breadth of support for urgent action in Darfur by gathering more than 1 million signatures on postcards.

The postcards will be delivered to President Obama urging him to keep his promise of "unstinting resolve" to end the Darfur Genocide at a rally in Washington DC on April 26.  The Save Darfur Coalition and its partners will collect 1,000,000 signed postcards at events, places of worship, and over the internet. To support the campaign, the Save Darfur Coalition will organize the printing, distribution, collection and forwarding of the cards with options of co-branding from core partners. Postcards are free of charge and can be ordered by visiting www.addyourvoice.org/postcard.
This Week in Washington
This week in Washington, Congress is in session and will hold a series of confirmation hearings for cabinet-level appointees to the Obama administration.

SCHIP. This Wednesday, the House will vote on the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). SCHIP was due to be reauthorized in 2007, but after a grueling year of legislative battles, including two presidential vetoes, Congress had to settle for extending the program at 2007 levels until March 31, 2009.Picking up the reauthorization work that should have been completed in 2007, the new Congress is taking up SCHIP immediately.  The House will vote this week, most likely on Wednesday, while the Senate will bring the bill through committee at the same time, looking for a vote by the full Senate not long after. This bill will be very similar to the first SCHIP reauthorization bill that was vetoed in 2007. The one significant enhancement is that this bill will include the Immigrant Children Health Improvement Act (ICHIA).  Currently, legal immigrant children and pregnant women have to wait five years before they are eligible for SCHIP.  ICHIA removes the five-year waiting period so that legal immigrant children and pregnant women will be able to access care as soon as they need it.  

Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). On Monday, January 12th, President Bush asked Congress to release the second half of the $700 billion bailout bill, after President-Elect Obama asked him to do so. As President, Obama has indicated that he will seek five major changes to the program:
•    "easing credit and lending for small businesses, consumers and municipalities;
•    strengthening oversight of the program and moving quickly to overhaul financial industry regulations;
•    launching 'a sweeping effort to address the foreclosure crisis' by reducing mortgage payments for troubled homeowners and changing bankruptcy laws;
•    limiting executive compensation at firms that receive government funds, ban most dividend payments and limit stock buybacks and acquisitions of financially healthy companies; and
•    replacing government funds with private investments as soon as possible."

Now that President Bush has officially notified Congress that the administration intends to seek the remaining $350 billion, Congress has 15 days to block the use of the TARP money through a resolution of disapproval. Representative Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has already introduce a bill (HR384) that would require major changes in how the Treasury Department uses the funds, including directing more funding to foreclosure relief.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. On Friday, January 9th, the House passed two important equal pay bills, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Lilly Ledbetter bill reversed a 2007 Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear that made it harder for women to seek redress for wage discrimination, while the Paycheck Fairness bill strengthened the 1963 Equal Pay Act to more effectively protect women's equality. This week the Senate will consider the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
JCPA Plenum

New Faces…New Challenges: Jewish Activism during Change, Conflict, and Crisis.  As the full scope of the economic downslide has became apparent and with the crisis in Gaza, it has become clear we must significantly shift our focus. We have been presented with new dynamics to how we approach many of the issues on our domestic and international agenda.    There are emerging issues that merit serious discussion.  As a result, we have adjusted this year's theme to, "New Faces… New Challenges: Jewish Activism during Change, Conflict, and Crisis."  These changes are important enough that we have even changed the masthead.

As always, our speakers will be the "best and the brightest."  We have confirmed: Robert Greenstein, Executive Director of Center for Budget and Policy Priorities; Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Council on Civil Rights; William Rapfogel, President of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty; Tom Dine, Search for Common Ground; Imam Mohamed Magid of the ADAMS Center, Jerry Fowler, Save Darfur Coalition; Professor Yoram Peri; and David Makovsky, among many others. Professor Laurence Tribe will accept the 2009 Albert D. Chernin Award.

Many of you have already registered.  We urge those of you who have yet to register to take advantage of the early-bird rate and make plans now to participate in the 2009 JCPA Plenum.  Online registration is now available!  To register online and view speaker bios, please visit www.jcpaplenum.org.

Contribute to JCPA

JCPA speaks to you each week, alerting you to what the community relations field is doing to safeguard the rights of Jews here, in Israel, and around the world and to protect, preserve and promote a just, democratic and pluralistic American society. For three generations, we have brought together diverse voices in the Jewish community to unite a strong Jewish public policy force.

We hope you will continue to enjoy our three weekly emails.

Contribute Now!

Please consider a gift of $500, $100, or any other amount that you can, so that JCPA can enhance our efforts to provide information and resources to your community, and to mobilize our national network in support of Israel and of all the public issues we care about so dearly. Click here to make a contribution to the JCPA. Contributions can also be sent to JCPA, 116 E. 27th, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10016.

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