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 Budget Battles

Camp David Revisited
Budget Battles Begin

On February 14th, President Obama released his budget proposal for FY 2012. The proposal attempts the careful balancing act of investing in programs that will stimulate the economy, create jobs, and secure our nation while at the same time lowering our deficit. In an effort to save money, the President has proposed the termination or significant reduction of more than 200 programs. Echoing his State of the Union address, the President makes serious investments in areas of energy, education, nutrition and jobs. Unfortunately the budget proposal presented yesterday also contains some serious cuts to important human needs programs such as LIHEAP (home heating and cooling assistance to low-income people), Community Development Block Grants and Community Service Block Grants, new housing construction for the elderly and disabled, and part of the Pell Grant program (in particular money for summer classes and when interest begins accruing).

The JCPA issued a press release on the budget earlier today. In addition, Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and CEO of the JCPA, joined with Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, and Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in this creative Valentine’s Day themed statement saying that a budget that leaves out families is like a valentine that leaves out “love”.

The JCPA has joined other national faith organizations in the creation of a Faith Reflection on the Budget. We are also strongly encouraging local and state organizations to sign on to the SAVE (Strengthening America’s Values and Economy) Campaign’s statement of principles. The JCPA has signed on as a national organization to this new campaign by advocacy groups, service providers, faith-based organizations, labor, civil rights groups, and policy experts to advocate for budgetary policies that protect low- and moderate-income Americans.

Cautious Optimism Towards Egypt
What seemed unthinkable just three weeks ago is now today’s reality: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been forced out of power after 30 years, ceding control of the country to the military who have already begun the process of rewriting the constitution. What comes next for Egypt is unclear. While celebrating the victory for democratic aspirations, JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow told the New York Times that he remains wary of Egypt’s next government, especially in respect to its respect for human rights and continuation of the 3 decade peace with Israel.

To help make sense of it all, the Israel Advocacy Initiative, a joint project of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, hosted an “Israel Perspectives” call with veteran Israeli journalist Ehud Ya’ari on Monday to discuss the ramifications of the situation in Egypt for Israel.  With some 300 participants, Ya’ari provided an insider’s view, following up on last week’s call with former U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer.  

According to Ya’ari, the recent revolution in Egypt was about domestic issues and not foreign policy, though foreign policy is already becoming part the debate on Egypt’s future.  No opposition leaders have called for an end to the country’s peace with Israel, but one candidate for President, Ayman Nour, has said the details of the 1979 Camp David Accords, the foundation for peace between the two countries, need to be reassessed.  
Fostering Civility
As part of JCPA’s groundbreaking Civility Campaign, leaders from fifteen communities will participate in a special JCPA Civility Institute before the JCPA Plenum.  Participants will examine issues emerging in their communities, study strategies, and build skills for response.  Facilitators from Encounter and the San Francisco JCRC, which are partnering on the Civility Institute, will provide resources and models for training leaders in active listening, conflict resolution, communicating across polarized divides, and other tools institutions and communities can use to restore a more civil discourse to the Jewish and general community.   

Communities participating in the Institute include Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Haven, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, San Jose, and Youngstown.  

For more information on the Civility Campaign, contact Michelle Shaland, JCPA Civility Fellow, at mshaland@thejcpa.org

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