COEJL presents at Interfaith Power & Light panel discussion

 Over the weekend, COEJL Manager Liya Rechtman participated in a panel discussion at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA. She discussed the need for climate activism and the significance for the Jewish community of Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the environment. Unlike previous encyclicals, Laudato Si (On Care for our Common Home) is a unique call to action that addresses all of humankind about the need for dialogue on the future of the planet. Liya spoke about the Biblical value exemplified by Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof (Justice, justice you shall pursue) and how this obligation can be fulfilled by combating climate change and recognizing its impact on all inhabitants of the planet, especially those who are poor and disenfranchised. She reminded the audience that we must do more than simply acknowledge climate change is happening; we must take action to minimize its impact. 

The panel was moderated by Interfaith Power and Light DC/MD/VA Director Joelle Novey. Other panelists included Sarah Spegman, Education and Mobilization Manager from NETWORK, and Asma Mahdi, Director of Communications from Green Muslims. Each panelist recognized the significance of the papal encyclical to their faith community. 

Click here for COEJL's Jewish-Catholic Encyclical Guide

Click here to tell Congress why Jews Support Climate Change! 

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COEJL presents at Interfaith Power & Light panel discussion

 Over the weekend, COEJL Manager Liya Rechtman participated in a panel discussion at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA. She discussed the need for climate activism and the significance for the Jewish community of Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the environment. Unlike previous encyclicals, Laudato Si (On Care for our Common Home) is a unique call to action that addresses all of humankind about the need for dialogue on the future of the planet. Liya spoke about the Biblical value exemplified by Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof (Justice, justice you shall pursue) and how this obligation can be fulfilled by combating climate change and recognizing its impact on all inhabitants of the planet, especially those who are poor and disenfranchised. She reminded the audience that we must do more than simply acknowledge climate change is happening; we must take action to minimize its impact. 

The panel was moderated by Interfaith Power and Light DC/MD/VA Director Joelle Novey. Other panelists included Sarah Spegman, Education and Mobilization Manager from NETWORK, and Asma Mahdi, Director of Communications from Green Muslims. Each panelist recognized the significance of the papal encyclical to their faith community. 

Click here for COEJL's Jewish-Catholic Encyclical Guide

Click here to tell Congress why Jews Support Climate Change! 

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IAN Workshop at the JFNA General Assembly

 At the recent Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) Town Hall, the Israel Action Network (IAN), a shared initiative of the JCPA and Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), organized several workshops for participants. As the go-to source for the latest information and resources to counter assaults made on Israel’s legitimacy, IAN staff  were featured on several panels, covering topics as diverse as campus-community partnerships and socially responsible investment. Community professionals and lay leaders were introduced to Israel advocacy best practices, along with innovative new ways to build unique coalitions and provide allies with effective support. IAN will return to Washington, D.C. for next week's Jewish Federations of North America 2015 General Assembly, where an advocacy workshop will introduce a new audience to IAN training.  

click here to learn more about the Israel Action Network

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Former JCPA Chair discusses bioterrorism

 Former JCPA Chair Leonard A. Cole,  who served from 2000 to 2002, testified today before the House Committee on Homeland Security in a briefing entitled “Defending against bioterrorism: How vulnerable is America?” Dr. Cole is currently the director of the Terror Medicine and Security Program, Department of Emergency Medicine at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.  Dr. Cole is considered an expert on bioterrorism and has written several works on the subject including “Terror: How Israel has Coped and What America Can Learn.”  

click here to read his testimony

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 JCPA is planning a new webinar series “HaMatsav: the Situation.” Our first program will be a discussion with Akiva Tor, Head of the Bureau of World Jewish Affairs and World Religions at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who will discuss the current wave of violence in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza with a special focus on the situation at the Temple Mount.

The webinar will take place on Thursday, October 22 at 2:00 pm EDT. Please join us for our inaugural “HaMatsav: The Situation” series webinar with Akiva Tor, Click here to register!

For more information on various aspects of the situation, check out these links:

Washington Institute of Near East Policy
Times of Israel
Brookings Institution

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JCPA at the White House

 JCPA leadership paid a visit to the White House on Tuesday after the end of JCPA’s 2015 Town Hall. In keeping with the overall theme of the gathering, #Justice2015, the first meeting was with Roy L. Austin, Jr., Deputy Assistant to the President in the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity. In this position, he coordinates the formulation and implementation of policy covering criminal justice, civil rights, housing, labor, and human services.

Austin also spearheads the Promise Zone Initiative, which is part of the Obama administration’s plan to create opportunities for the middle-class by partnering with local communities and businesses to create jobs, reestablish economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing and improve public safety.  Another initiative that Austin leads is Strong Cities, Strong Communities, which seeks to strengthen neighborhoods, towns, cities, and regions around the country by enhancing the capacity of local governments to develop and execute their economic vision and strategies, providing necessary technical assistance and access to federal agency expertise, and creating new public and private sector partnerships.

The group also met with Colin Kahl, National Security Advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, Caitlin Baker, Special Adviser for Middle East Affairs, and Matt Nosanchuk, White House liaison to the Jewish community and Director for Outreach for the National Security Council, to discuss the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program. Kahl explained to the group that “Adoption Day,” October 18, signified the formal adoption of the agreement by all parties. On that day, the United States approved conditional sanctions waivers that will go into effect only after Iran meets the criteria established in the JCPOA and verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Before any sanctions will be suspended, Iran must reduce the number of operating uranium-enriching centrifuges that it possesses from more than 19,000 to around 5,000; cut its stocks of enriched uranium, and render the core of the heavy water reactor at Arak incapable of producing plutonium by filling it with cement. 

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JCPA Adopts Criminal Justice and Drug Reform as Senate takes up Sentencing reform measure.

 On Tuesday, October 15, JCPA adopted a policy on Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Reform that urges a shift from punitive prohibitionist policies and toward sensible regulatory policies that advance public safety and health. The policy calls for reformation of marijuana laws which are disproportionately enforced against minorities, causing significant fiscal and social costs including the deepening of racial division. Redirecting the focus of our law enforcement systems away from minor drug offenses would free up resources to combat more serious and dangerous crimes, resulting in improved public safety, reduced perceptions among minority communities that the system is biased against them, and a fairer and more effective criminal justice system.

On Monday, October 19, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S.2123). The hearing is a landmark step forward towards meaningful criminal justice sentencing reform to enhance reentry programs for nonviolent offenders to reduce risk of recidivism, give judges greater discretion to sentence certain low level offenders to less than a 10-year mandatory minimum, create new mandatory minimums for interstate domestic violence, apply the Fair Sentencing Act and certain sentencing reforms retroactively, and, importantly, expunge records of juveniles convicted for nonviolent offences. Nine of the 11 cosponsors, including the original sponsor of the legislation, Senator Grassley (R-IA), sit on the Senate Judiciary committee. The legislation has been lauded from advocates across the political spectrum. This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will markup the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S.2123), hoping to advance the measure to the floor for a vote this year or early next year.

click here  to take action!

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Rabbi David Saperstein delivers keynote address

 The next three articles are summaries of some of the sessions at the JCPA Town Hall. Please visit the Town Hall website for more summaries and the complete list of speakers.


Rabbi David Saperstein’s keynote address was a prophetic call for peace, justice, and tolerance in a world riven by polarization, violence, and disregard for the sanctity of the Earth and all of its inhabitants. He described a world in which we currently face a complex set of issues: military conflicts that destroy people and the countries in which they live; growing income inequality; the largest number of refugees and displaced persons that the world has seen since the end of World War II; and rampant climate change and the destruction of the environment. He also stressed the tragedy of human beings who never reach their full potential because they are either killed or victimized by brutal wars and repressive regimes, and compared this loss of vitality, creativity, and capacity for good to the empty void that remained when so many perished during the Holocaust and World War II. He also called explicitly for a “bipartisan coalition of conscience” in this country so that we can put aside our differences and begin to address these issues and provide hope and healing for our communities, our country, and the world. 

click here to read more

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Social justice in Israel breakout session

 One of the breakout sessions on Sunday was a discussion on issues of social justice in Israel. The featured participants were Nancy Kaufman, chief executive officer of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), who spoke on women’s issues; Salman Elbedour, Professor in the Department of Human Development and Psychoeducational Studies at the Howard University School of Education in Washington, who addressed the issues faced by Arab citizens of Israel; and Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), who talked about African asylum seekers and migrants in Israel. Melanie Nelkin, JCPA executive committee member and chair of the international human rights portfolio for the Israel, World Jewry, and International Human Rights task force, moderated the session.

The common theme tying these disparate subjects together was the balance between praise for and criticism of Israel. Kaufman spoke of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which recognized the equal rights of women, but also addressed women’s inequality in the subjects controlled by religious courts, such as marriage and divorce. Elbedour spoke of Israel’s strides in improving the educational opportunities and health of its Arab citizens but was critical of the wide income disparity between Arabs and Jews and the inequalities of land ownership. Hetfield placed the difficulties faced by African asylum seekers within the larger context of the global refugee crisis. He also pointed out that the Israeli justice system has been more progressive in supporting and protecting the rights of asylum seekers than has the Knesset or the wider Israeli public.

click here to read more

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Extremism in America

 Ken Jacobson, Deputy National Director of the ADL, continued the conversation on extremism in America for this breakout session during the JCPA Town Hall. According to Jacobson, anti-Semitism is not accepted by contemporary society, unlike in the past when anti-Semtisim was championed by leading citizens like Henry Ford. 

At the same time, anti-Semitism is still supported by a number of different groups in America. White supremacist groups believe that Jews control everything and often blame the Jewish people because they feel that whites are losing their powerful position in American society. Proponents of Islamic fundamentalism support a multitude of conspiracy theories, such as the canard that Jews were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Anti-Semitism is also found within some segments of the African-American community, such as in the speeches of the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan. 

Finally, some elements within  the BDS movement are motivated by an anti-Semitic ideology. These individuals are adept at coalition-building with marginalized groups;  one example is  the "From Ferguson to Palestine" campaign. At the same time, Jacobson argued that not all people attending BDS events are anti-Semitic or even anti-Israel; these well-meaning people are moved to help Palestinians and do not understand the problematic nature of the BDS movement. Therefore, the Jewish community should continue to build its own relationships with other groups, especially those that are most vulnerable to BDS messaging.

click here to read more

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 This year, the JCPA has teamed up with CrowdCompass to create an exclusive mobile app for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) Town Hall. This app will make your experience a lot more valuable, and we hope you take advantage of its unique features!

Using the tip of your finger on your phone, tablet, or laptop, this app will allow you to:

  • Access the event schedule anytime and customize your agenda
  • See contact info of other attendees
  • See the speakers and read their bios
  • Use an interactive map of the hotel, with session rooms highlighted
  • Access background material
  • Get important updates
  • Engage in social sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

The app is live! Download today and see what's on the schedule.

To download the app, please click here or visit your app store, download "Crowd Compass directory" and then search "JCPA". The event password is Justice15.

To view the event online, please click here or visit The event password is Justice15

Stay tuned with more important updates regarding the Town Hall by following #Justice15

Still haven’t registered? Sign up here! 

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Tensions in Israel

 Escalating violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank over the last few weeks has led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel a planned trip to Germany. In the latest incident, a man was stabbed and lightly wounded on Wednesday night in Petach Tikva. Earlier knife attacks in Jerusalem’s Old City included an incident in which two were killed and two wounded; one of those injured was a toddler.

These and other attacks have led to speculation about whether or not these are the first warnings of a third Palestinian intifada, translated literally as “shaking off,” and understood to be an uprising against Israeli rule of territories that Palestinians claim for a future state. In recent years, when violence has flared up between Israel and Palestinians, many have been quick to question whether or not the violence is similar to that of the first intifada, which began in 1987, or the second, which began in 2000.

A flurry of commentary followed the recent address to the UN General Assembly by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Abbas of fomenting “incitement and disaster,” in his speech, but other commentators had a different take. Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy analyzed the content of the remarks by Abbas and linked it to “quietly” probing regional attitudes about restarting the peace process. The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) discusses the Palestinian President’s domestic difficulties, and connects the speech to his efforts to “raise the Palestinian issue back up the international diplomatic agenda, where Syria and the Iranian nuclear deal have taken centre stage.”

JCPA responded to the address by Abbas:

“We believe that Abbas's statement is not conducive to peace. The last thing either party should be considering right now is reducing strategic cooperation on security.”

Follow JCPA on Facebook and Twitter to stay current on all of our statements and posts.

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Ozone Pollution Regulations

 Last Wednesday, President Obama announced an updated rule on ozone pollution regulations. In response, COEJL issued a statement calling for stronger ozone standards.While the new ozone regulation is a necessary step, JCPA feels that it is “insufficient to the task of adequately protecting people in the United States from the negative health consequences of smog.” 

You can read the statement here

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Discuss, Debate, and Decide

 We can't wait to see you in Washington, DC! We wanted to share some of the exciting sessions, speakers, and experiences you'll have at the JCPA Town Hall.

At the Town Hall you will have the oppurtunity to discuss, debate, and decide how the Jewish community should respond to the key issues of the day; Anti-Semitism, U.S.-Israel relations, Income Inequality, Race Relations and more. These are the conversations you won't want to miss.   

Click here for our current schedule. You can read session descriptions, background materials, and speaker bios.
Click here for a list of our speakers.

We're thrilled to share that the JCPA Town Hall is going mobile with an event app! We have teamed up with CrowdCompass to build an app that will allow our attendees to engage even more with this year's Town Hall. 

click here to register!

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Washington Update

 It’s a busy week in Washington.  In a surprise move last Friday, Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner announced that he would be retiring from Congress at the end of October. His retirement, in the middle of the session, has set off cascading events to determine who will be the next Speaker and serve in the majority leadership posts. There are still many important issues on the Congressional agenda for this year. Today, the Senate passed a short term spending bill that will fund the government through the middle of December. The House is expected to pass the bill later today and the President is expected to sign it into law. However, this short-term compromise lays the groundwork for another budget battle in December. Additionally, over the next few months, Congress will address the debt ceiling, funding for surface transportation projects, criminal justice reform, and child nutrition programs.  

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Pope Francis's visit to Washington

 Last week, Pope Francis spoke to a joint session of Congress on the importance of protecting our earth and the poor. Ahead of his visit, over 200 Rabbis and Cantors joined together to thank Pope Francis for his climate change work.You can find the letter here.

Before visiting the United States, the Pope wrote a Papal Encyclical –authoratative teaching – on the environment and caring for the poor.  Welcoming the Pope’s leadership on this critical issue, COEJL released several resources, including aa guide for Catholic-Jewish study and dialogue that you can find here.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs and COEJL released a joint statement welcoming the Pope to the United States.
Read the statement here

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Don't forget to vote!

 Aside from our community conversations on important topics such as race relations, income inequality, and sentencing reform, attendees at the JCPA Town Hall meeting will also have the chance to vote on our policy resolutions.

Our adopted resolutions guide our collective actions and help us to identify issues, articulate positions, develop strategies, inspire programs, and suggest approaches for the Jewish  community relations field. The Town Hall provides a setting that uses a consensus-based voting system for decision-making. The result is an invigorating session characterized by healthy debate, controlled chaos, and compromise where various resolutions are put to a vote by our membership. Therefore, attendance at our Town Hall won’t be like attending any other conference. Rather, it will be chance for you to have your voice heard. Register today! 

click here to register! 

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University of California Comes Under Fire for Effort to Address Campus Intolerance

 In recent weeks, the University of California has come under fire for its efforts to address the issue of intolerance on its campuses. Critics said the UC's plan to revisit the system's Statement on Tolerance did not go far enough and failed to address recent campus incidents involving swastikas and other forms of anti-Semitic harassment. Then, the University came under fire by free speech and academic freedom proponents who argued that attempting to define intolerance may pose a threat to principles of open and free academic discourse. The Israel Action Network, together with JCPA, is convening a working group to examine the issue and determine a best course of action.

click here to read more about the Israel Action Network 

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COEJL Update

 The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), a project of JCPA, has been busy this week! A group of over 200 rabbis and cantors came together to thank Pope Francis for championing climate change and poverty as he travels to the United States for the first time in this letter. COEJL has been a long-time advocate of a House resolution introduced this week acknowledging that climate change is real and requires immediate action. You can read COEJL’s statement on the resolution here. Finally, Liya Rechtman, COEJL's manager and JCPA policy associate, writes on environmental wishes for the New Jewish Year 5776 in a reflection here.

click here for resources on Jewish-Catholic Dialogue and the environment

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In case you missed it....

 As we finish celebrating Rosh Hashanah and reflect upon the coming New Year, it is time for us to look forward and come together. There is no greater place for us to come together as a community than the JCPA Town Hall on October 10 – 13, 2015 in Washington, D.C. Your voice and participation are so important to us that we extended the early registration rate and hotel block until TOMORROW –  September 17, 2015 – to ensure that you will be able to participate. 

If you have joined us at this annual meeting before, then you know how stimulating the discussions are – and how vibrant the energy will be.  If you haven’t, we know you won't be disappointed.  You can be part of conversations full of people who, like you, care about the future and are willing to do something to shape it.

The JCPA Town Hall isn’t just another meeting. Together, we create common ground where activists work to shape the agenda of the united voice of the organized American Jewish community.

It's going to be a turning point; don’t you want to be part of it?

click here to register!

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Spotlight on Iran webinar series concludes

 JCPA concluded its four-part webinar series, “Spotlight on Iran” with a final program that highlighted an international perspective on the Iran nuclear agreement. Two speakers participated on the panel: Richard Verber, senior vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and chair of the Board’s International division, and Professor Alan Johnson, a senior fellow at the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) and editor of Fathom: for a deeper understanding of Israel and the region, a free quarterly journal, app and website. For American readers who might be unfamiliar with these institutions, the Board of Deputies is often referred to as “the voice of British Jewry,” and BICOM is an “independent British organisation dedicated to creating a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain.”

click here for a recording of the webinar! 

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Payday lenders

Last week, JCPA Board Chair Susan W. Turnbull joined a coalition of Jewish groups that met with Director Richard Cordray of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to advocate for strong and robust regulations to curtail the predatory practices of payday lenders. Payday and car title lenders sometimes charge 300% APE and higher and often extend credit without regard to the customers’ ability to repay the loan. These lenders also access customers’ bank accounts or car titles, which gives them powers of collection that often supersede the financial ability of the customers to render payment. Many victims of these lenders are low-income and often end up paying more in fees than they receive in credit. 

In July 2015, the JCPA joined a sign-on letter to Director Cordray urging him to restrict such practices and right these wrongs by pointing out the biblical concept of the shmitta year. According to Jewish tradition, the shmitta year occurs every seven years and is a time when people are released from debts. This insures that no one will be financially oppressed indefinitely. The last shmitta year was during the Jewish calendar year of 5775 (which ended after Rosh Hashanah).

click here to read the letter! 

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Europe's Refugee Crisis

 In recent months, harrowing stories and shocking photographs have chronicled the desperate plight of displaced persons who hope to escape war-torn regions in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East and find safe haven in Europe. According to a report from the office of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, “the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 [by wars, conflict, and persecution] had risen to a staggering 59.5 million,” the largest level ever recorded. 

The highest number of refugees from any one country come from Syria, where civil war has raged since 2011. One of the reasons that Syrians are beginning to seek sanctuary in Europe is that resources in neighboring nations – Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan – are not sufficient to deal with the enormous numbers of refugees that have already arrived. Additionally, continuing chaos in Iraq means that it is also one of the key drivers of human displacement. 

For now, European countries are scrambling to find the appropriate response to this tidal wave of human suffering. Some countries, such as Germany and Sweden, have been more welcoming. Other countries in Southern and Eastern Europe have had a more negative response. See below for a brief roundup of relevant articles on the issue: 

To read JCPA’s statement on the refugee crisis, click here.

For a summary of global trends on displaced persons from  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), click here.

Click here to read Alvin Roth, Nobel prize-winning economist, writing for Politico on the refugee crisis in Europe. 

To read the Washington Post’s summary of the situation in Europe, click here. 

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What is the next big Civil Rights Issue?

 Some argue that it is the “War on Drugs,” which has fueled mass incarceration and conflicts between police and citizens. This line of reasoning attests that this “War” has also contributed to poverty, devastating families and poor and minority communities for decades.

That is why it is one of the key issues on the schedule for the JCPA Town Hall on October 11-13 in Washington, D. C.

Four states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize marijuana since 2012, and a bill or ballot initiative proposing marijuana reform may be coming soon to your local community. Therefore, it is imperative that you join us in Washington , D.C. to talk, debate, and decide how the Jewish community can take action.  

At our Town Hall, we will be voting on a community position on marijuana reform, which comprises a huge chunk of the criminal justice system. In fact, marijuana possession arrests outpace the number of arrests for all violent crimes combined.

At a special session at our Town Hall, you will be able to learn more about the harmful effects of criminalization of drug use, the racially disproportionate impacts this has on our communities, and the fast-changing landscape of policy reform in this area. We will also brainstorm what actions our communities need to be taking. Click here for the full session description and background reading material.

We will engage in dialogue with two top experts in the field: Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the leading organization in the United States promoting alternatives to the war on drugs, and  Jasmine L. Tyler, the senior policy analyst for global health and drug policy at the Open Society Foundations.

You should register  today to hear from Nadelmann, Tyler, and many others who will open our eyes and broaden our vision. Help us pursue Justice and Tikkun Olam, not just for the Jewish community, but for our wider American community.

click here to register!

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Dershowitz and Beinart Iran Panel

 JCRC of Southern New Jersey convened a forum on the Iran nuclear agreement last Wednesday with nationally recognized scholars Alan Dershowitz and Peter Beinart. Professor Dershowitz, who argued against the agreement, is a well-known jurist, author, and scholar on constitutional law and is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard University. Professor Beinart, who spoke for the agreement, is an associate professor of journalism and political science at City University of New York, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. JCPA’s Director of Israel and International Affairs, Linda Maizels, acted as moderator.

According to JCRC director David Snyder, the event was “intended to provide a forum so that members of our community can learn more about the proposed deal, ask key questions, and take part in an open and thoughtful discussion with top thought leaders on this issue.” Snyder emphasized the need for civil dialogue and also reiterated his vision of the JCRC as a “big tent” that models respect for a diversity of viewpoints on issues important to the Jewish community.

More than 650 people attended the event at the Betty and Milton Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, which was the first of only two events featuring Dershowitz and Beinart in conversation on the agreement. The second event took place last Thursday at JCC Manhattan. 

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Past, present, and future programs in JCPAs Spotlight on Iran webinar series

 Yair Lapid, the Chairperson and Founder of the centrist Israeli political party Yesh Atid, is a former-journalist-turned-politician, who has a finely-honed ability to both ask and answer the tougher questions. Yesterday, he was in the hot seat as the third speaker in JCPA’s webinar series “Spotlight on Iran.” Lapid, a current Member of Knesset who also sits on the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, made brief remarks and then took questions from the audience.

Although Lapid’s party did not join the current governing coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is part of the opposition, Lapid shares the prime minister’s negative assessment of the Iran nuclear agreement. He expressed concern that the debate about the deal in the United States has been politicized and has become a partisan issue and also criticized the liberal countries of the E.U. for showing an interest in becoming trading partners with Iran’s repressive regime. “All of a sudden, Iran has become kosher because they signed a nuclear deal?” he wondered.

To get a more in-depth look at JCPA’s program with Yair Lapid, click here to watch the video.  

The last program in JCPA’s “Spotlight on Iran” webinar series will take place on Tuesday, September 8 at 2 pm EDT. Reflecting JCPA’s interest in understanding the Iran nuclear agreement in a broader international context, we are pleased to announce that Richard Verber, Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and Professor Alan Johnson, Senior Research Fellow at the Britain Israel Communications Research Centre (BICOM) will join us. 

Register now for this webinar by clicking here.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews is the voice of British Jewry: a cross-communal, democratic, grassroots organization, and thus the authoritative first port of call for Government, media and others seeking to understand Jewish community interests and concerns. 

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre, is an independent British organisation dedicated to creating a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain. We do this by trying to create a more complete understanding of Israel and its situation. We believe in the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security, just as we believe in the rights of the Palestinians to statehood. We support a close relationship between Britain and Israel, based on shared values and interests.

And don’t forget to check out a few of the interviews sponsored by the JFNA, including US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (cosponsored with JCPA); President Obama; Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Dr. Robert Satloff.

Click here to watch.

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JCPA Action Alert: prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons

 In the last week, JCPA constituents have responded to our Action Alert on the Iran nuclear agreement, sending more than 2000 letters to their elected representatives in Congress to urge them to put aside partisan differences and focus on a crucial objective: preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Please join us by sending this letter to your congressional representatives to urge them to consider the following action items:

•              Developing a structured congressional review procedure to ensure compliance and accountability during the implementation of the JCPOA.

•             Working with the P5+1 to clarify key elements of the JCPOA, such as the timely inspections of non-declared sites that may be used for design, manufacture, and assembly of prohibited non-nuclear materials.

•             Ensuring that individuals who were previously sanctioned under the nuclear program and still qualify for designation under anti-terrorism or other sanctions will remain under penalty.  This should be done in coordination with our like-minded partners to maximize the effect of the sanctions and eliminate any international misunderstandings.

•             Providing all available support, including financial resources, technology, and intelligence, to ensure effective International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections.

•             Creating an additional comprehensive strategy to deter the spread of Iranian funding or other material support to terrorist groups. 

•             Sharing of defensive military technology to protect our allies, including Israel, against Iranian aggression.

•             Coordinating with our partners, particularly the European Union, on enforcement of non-material breaches of the agreement that will not trigger the ‘snap-back’ procedure but could present a cumulative danger.

click here to send a letter to Congress

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10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

 Over the weekend, our nation marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the storm that devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. A few days after the storm, levees protecting New Orleans failed, and the historic and colorful city was flooded. The world watched as those who had taken shelter in the Superdome and the Convention Center suffered from a lack of resources and the absence of official assistance. Still others trapped in their homes waited to be rescued from their rooftops. Eighteen hundred people died, and more than a million sought refuge elsewhere in the region and around the country.

The Jewish community responded to the historic tragedy in full force. National agencies came together in remarkable coordination to raise tens of millions of dollars, collect and deliver tons of supplies, provide shelter, and offer other assistance to those in need, Jews and non-Jews alike. The small Jewish communities of the Gulf Coast were able to leverage the resources of the national community by providing assistance and participating in local recovery efforts. The JCPA played an integral role in the efforts by coordinating the flow of information between local and national organizations, including JCPA member agencies. 

Click here for a report delivered by Andi Milens, JCPA Vice President, to the JCPA Board of Directors in October 2005

Click here for an article written by JCPA Vice President Andi Milens about the importance of community relations in disaster relief, printed by the Journal of Jewish Communal Service

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Spotlight on Iran webinar series continues

 The third program in the “Spotlight on Iran” webinar series will feature Yair Lapid, Member of Knesset and Chairperson and founder of the Yesh Atid political party. 

The second program in JCPA’s “Spotlight on Iran” webinar series that took place last Wednesday featured journalist, foreign policy analyst, and author Robin Wright. Ms. Wright contextualized the recent agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), by drawing on the knowledge gleaned from decades of reporting from more than 140 countries on six different continents. 

Unlike the first program in the series with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, who addressed the technical and scientific specifics of the deal, Ms. Wright, who is a historian by training, took a longer view, addressing in detail the evolution of Iranian society since the 1979 revolution and how these changes are affecting the responses of everyday Iranians toward the JCPOA. As if to highlight the point, her descriptions of contemporary Iranian culture contrasted with the traditional Persian dress that hung behind her as moderator Cheryl Fishbein, vice chair of JCPA’s executive committee and also one of the co-chairs of JCPA’s Israel, World Jewry and International Human Rights task force, asked questions submitted earlier by webinar participants.

Unfortunately, we are not distributing a recording of the webinar because the call was off the record. 

click here to register for the next webinar!

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Approaching Congressional deadlines

 As the August recess winds down, a series of critical legislative deadlines await members of Congress on their return to Washington. The congressional agenda for September includes Congress authorizing funds before September 30 to avoid a government shutdown; passing  Child Nutrition Reauthorization before it expires on September 30; acting on tax extensions, including Earned Income and Child tax credits; raising the debt limit before the limit is reached in mid-October; voting on a Resolution of Disapproval related to the Iran nuclear deal by the end of the 60-day review period ending September 17; and welcoming Pope Francis during his September 24 visit to the Capitol.  

The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to mark up Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) on September 17. JCPA's top CNR priorities include strengthening the Summer Meal Programs through the bipartisan bills S. 613/H.R. 1728 and S.1539/H.R. 2715, supporting the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and safeguarding school nutrition standards put into effect as part of the previous CNR. 

To take action on Child Nutrition Reauthorization click here

To learn more about Summer Meals, tax credits, and the Iran Nuclear Deal, check out the JCPA's August Toolkit

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IAN Joins the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Mission to Israel as Scholar in Residence

 By Emily Hochberg

Last week, the Israel Action Network’s (IAN) Director of Community Strategy, Noam Gilboord, traveled to Israel to participate in the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s 2015 Campus Ambassadors Mission as a Scholar in Residence. Sponsored by the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, this 10-day trip invited 10 pro-Israel student leaders to Israel to engage with multiple perspectives on a wide variety of issues facing the country. The student participants on the mission primarily included rising sophomores and juniors at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University, who all held leadership roles in various campus organizations.

Over one weekend of the trip, Noam led student leaders in an introduction to IAN’s best practices in Israel advocacy. This included an extended version of the Student Action Lab, a new, forthcoming initiative from IAN that will engage with high school and college students on countering delegitimization through four engaging modules. Over the course of this intensive weekend program, Noam and students worked together to understand delegitimization, engage in role-playing exercises, and to develop comprehensive strategic plans that will increase pro-Israel activities on their campuses.

click here to read the full blog post by Emily

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"Spotlight on Iran" with Robin Wright

 Please join the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) for the second program in our "Spotlight on Iran" webinar series with Robin Wright: journalist, foreign policy analyst, and lecturer. 

Wednesday, August 19 at 2:00 pm EDT


Robin Wright has reported from more than 140 countries on six continents for The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, TIME, Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs and others.

Her foreign tours include the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Wright has been a fellow at Yale, Duke, Stanford, Brookings, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Among many awards, she won the U.N. Correspondents Gold Medal, the National Magazine Award, and the Overseas Press Club Award for "best reporting in any medium requiring exceptional courage and initiative." The American Academy of Diplomacy selected her as the journalist of the year in 2004. Her latest book is “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion across the Islamic World.” All of her books are featured at A frequent television commentator, she is also the author of “Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East,” “The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran,” “Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam,” and “In the Name of God: The Khomeini Decade.”

Click on the links below to read some of Robin Wright’s most recent articles:

Tehran's promise

Obama's hard sell on Iran

Obama on war and peace

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Spotlight on Iran webinar with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz

 “Spotlight on Iran” webinar with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz

Secretary Moniz (left) and JCPA Chair Susan W. Turnbull (Right)

Last Thursday, JCPA and JFNA cosponsored the first program in JCPA’s “Spotlight on Iran” webinar series with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. A former professor of physics and engineering at MIT, Moniz provided insight into the scientific aspects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program that the U.S. and its negotiating partners announced last month. A Congressional vote on the agreement is scheduled to take place in mid-September.

Beyond discussing the technical details of the JCPOA, Secretary Moniz addressed issues of special concern to the Jewish community. “We are concerned about some possible escalation in [Iran’s] support for terrorism, meddling in the region in terms of stability,” he related, and also expressed the administration’s concern about “the strong anti-Israel, anti-Semitic rhetoric coming out of Iran.” Nevertheless, Moniz reiterated the administration’s belief that signing this agreement will give the U.S. greater freedom to deal with Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region. He also challenged opponents of the agreement to provide a credible alternative to the JCPOA and concluded that this agreement was “the famous better deal” to which they often refer.

Close to 2000 people live streamed the webinar last week. If you missed it, click here to see a recording of the webcast.

click here for the recording!

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Our Goal is Justice

 The divides are deepening. No matter which we way look, we are being challenged as a community with divisive and difficult issues. For instance, there are tremendous cracks in our community regarding the Iran nuclear issue. Regardless of the outcome of the Congressional vote in September, though, our community will need to come back together to move forward. We cannot sit idly by while Iran and other critical issues are in our midst every single day. Anti-Semitism is on the rise. Race relations continue to boil over with new incidents weekly. Economic inequality is not being addressed by our elected leaders a comprehensive way. And Israel’s legitimacy is constantly being questioned and faces world-wide scrutiny.

We have a place to come together to work toward the resolution of these issues. Join us October 10-13 in Washington, DC at JCPA's annual Town Hall.

click here to register!

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JCPA Webinar Series: "Spotlight on Iran"

 The JCPA will kick off its four-part webinar series “Spotlight on Iran” on Thursday, August 13 at 2:00 pm EDT with a talk by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. Click here to register for the program.  

Although Secretary of State John Kerry was the public face of the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, Secretary Moniz, the lead technical negotiator for the United States and a former professor of physics at MIT, played a crucial role by providing the scientific expertise that shaped the deal. Now, he has become the point man for the Obama  administration as it seeks to explain the finer points of the agreement and why its supporters believe that it will prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons.

At the Department of Energy, Moniz is responsible for overseeing the protocols that safeguard America’s nuclear program and for working with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the international organization that will bear the responsibility for ensuring Iran’s compliance with all parameters of the agreement. 

Be sure to put the next programs in the series on your calendar: 

Wednesday, August 19, 2:00 pm EDT: Robin Wright, journalist, author, foreign policy analyst, and Senior Fellow and Distinguished Scholar at the Wilson Center.

Thursday, September 3, time TBA: Senior Vice President of Board of Deputies of British Jews, Richard Verber and Professor Alan Johnson from Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM)

click below for Ms. Wright's New Yorker articles
- Tehran's Promise
- Obama's Hard Sell 
- Obama on War and Peace

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Take action and stand with COEJL to reduce our nation’s impact on climate change!

 Last week, the Obama administration finalized the single most important step toward reducing global climate change: cutting carbon pollution from power plants through the Clean Power Plan. Power plants across the nation will have to reduce their carbon pollution by 32% in 2030 from 2005 levels, which is the equivalent of removing 166 million cars from the road. 

Each state will have the flexibility to write its own plan and will be encouraged to use clean and renewable energy solutions such as wind and solar power to meet the Plan’s goals. These include increasing the nation’s use of clean and renewable energy by 30%; spurring new energy-efficient industries; and dramatically improving the health of  U.S. citizens by reducing the factors that could lead to 3,600 premature deaths and saving 90,000 children from asthma attacks.

Over the past decade, the United States cut its total carbon pollution more than any other nation in the world. Help JCPA keep this trend active on the way to Paris, where the U.S. will participate in global climate talks this November. Join us in encouraging your representatives to support strong policies to combat global climate change, both here and around the world. 

Encourage Congress
to Support U.S. leadership in the fight against global climate change by supporting the Clean Power Plan 

click here to take action

click here for more Jewish and Interfaith resources on climate change 

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Countering Delegitimization on Campus

 Countering the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses was the subject of a conference call this week convened by the Israel Action Network, a strategic initiative of the JFNA and JCPA, and four partnering organizations. On the call, Federation and JCRC leaders from 47 communities discussed strategies to address the growing Israel delegitimization campaigns during the upcoming academic year. For more information, contact Noam Gilboord

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Iran Webinar Series

 The JCPA has been deeply engaged with the Obama Administration and members of Congress to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.  In the past week alone, JCPA Chair Susan Turnbull has met with President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of Energy Moniz, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

Like many in the Jewish community, we listened to the conference call today with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the interest of continuing the community dialogue, JCPA’s is sponsoring a four-part webinar series on the Iran nuclear agreement. The series will include a variety of different perspective on the agreement: from the Obama administration; the Israeli government; the European/international Jewish community, and selected think tank analysis.  

The first webinar will be on Thursday, August 13th at 2:00 pm. Registration and RSVP details will follow.

follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the most updated information

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JCPA’s 2015 August Recess Toolkit

 During the month of August, Congress adjourns and members return to their district offices.  This August recess is a prime opportunity for you to reach out to your members of Congress on the issues that matter to the Jewish community.

To help you with your advocacy work, the JCPA offers its 2015 August Recess Toolkit.  The toolkit is full of resources on how to hold a in-person visits with legislators or their staff, best practices on how to be heard at town halls and other public meetings, and social or traditional media outreach tips. This year's toolkit also includes background information and talking points on key issues facing Congress, including the Iran Nuclear Program Agreement, anti-Semitism, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, and summer anti-hunger programs for children.

click here for to download the guide! 

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Obama Administration takes important step towards reducing carbon pollution through the Clean Power Plan Yesterday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and President Obama released a long awaited rule to curb U.S. carbon dioxide

 Yesterday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and President Obama released a long awaited rule to curb U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. The Clean Power Plan sets the first-ever national standard to limit carbon pollution from power plants and gives states the flexibility to write their own implementation plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32% in 2030 from 2005 levels. In order to meet these goals, states are encouraged to use clean and renewable energy solutions such as wind and solar power, which are slated to see a 30% increase by 2030 and will contribute to falling energy costs.

Currently, the U.S. is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide globally and a key contributor to global warming. The Clean Power Plan is an important show of U.S. leadership and its commitment to reducing the environmental and economic cost of climate change. The plan will contribute to public health by avoiding 3,600 premature deaths and cutting 90,000 asthma attacks in children. The Clean Power Plan also requires states to engage with low-income and other vulnerable communities often disproportionately affected by air pollutants.

watch President Obama's announcement of the Clean Power Plan

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2015 Jewish Community Town Hall

 All year long, we are confronted with serious issues facing the Jewish community and the world. There is plenty to talk about.  Let's get together to discuss, debate, and decide while creating a united Jewish community agenda. We’re saving you a spot at the microphone! Together, we will discuss issues in depth, discover what works in each of our communities, and find creative avenues to implement new solutions.  

Register today!  

Registration for the full program is $575.  If you register before September 10, you'll receive a special $80 discount!

Visit for more details and to register.

click here to register!

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Iran Deal

 Last Friday, the JCPA sponsored a conference call with Ambassador Dennis Ross, Counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, on the recent completion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the P5 + 1 countries (United States United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia) and Iran on Iran’s nuclear program.

Ambassador Ross outlined the basic parameters of the agreement, describing both the benefits of the deal and the areas where he feels the accord is weak. He characterized the deal as a tradeoff: sanctions relief for Iran in exchange for transparency on their nuclear program. He also suggested that the Obama administration and Congress may need to consider ways to mitigate the flaws in the agreement by taking action in areas that the accord does not cover. For instance, Israeli and moderate Sunni leaders need to be reassured that the US will work to stop any funds that Iran could funnel toward terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. Ross also suggested that opponents of the agreement need to present a clear alternative to the deal before they urge Congress to reject it.

Since the conference call, there have been a few new developments: the United Nations Security Council ratified the agreement by unanimous vote on July 20, and the resolution will take effect after 90 days. On the same day, the E.U. voted to approve the agreement and the United States Congress began a 60-day review period to decide whether or not to curtail the president’s capacity to waive sanctions currently in place against Iran. If Congress votes to sustain sanctions, the President has vowed to veto the legislation; to override the veto, both houses of Congress would need to muster a two-thirds majority.

click here to read a recent op-ed by Dennis Ross in the Washington Post 

click here to listen to a recording of the JCPA conference call

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JCPA Testifies before National Hunger Commission

 On July 14, JCPA Policy Manager Jill Borak offered testimony before the National Hunger Commission on the importance of supporting and strengthening federal anti-hunger programs, especially those benefiting children.  "The JCPA’s commitment to the most vulnerable among us remains strong; this is why fighting hunger, particularly among children, remains one of our top priorities," Borak testified.  "We believe feeding America’s hungry is not a political decision, but a moral one."

Congress created the bipartisan National Hunger Commission to build necessary consensus behind solid solutions on food insecurity.  Based on testimony from a series of hearings, the Commission will provide final recommendations to Congress and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) by November 2015. 

click here to read the full testimony

click here to ask Congress to strengthen federal child nutrition programs

click here to read more about the National Hunger Commission

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Iran must not have nuclear weapons

 An agreement on Iran’s nuclear program was announced today by the P5 + 1 countries (United States, United Kingdom, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) and Iran. Touted as historic by the Obama administration, the accord is based on a trade: a relaxation of punitive sanctions against Iran in exchange for transparency and oversight of its nuclear program.

One of the many worries about the agreement is that the easing of sanctions will enable Iran to funnel some of the revenue that it stands to recoup into activities that will further destabilize the volatile Middle East, including support for terrorist groups; continued threats of annihilation toward Israel; and human rights abuses at home. Another is that this agreement will not do enough to prevent Iran from taking a covert path toward developing its own nuclear weapon. Certainly, these and other concerns will be a substantial part of the debate as Congress begins a 60-day period to review and dissect the parameters of the agreement.

click here to read the JCPA's statement on the agreement 

click here for full text of the agreement 

click here for an assessment of the agreement by Amb. Dennis Ross in the Washington Post 

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JCPA Calls on Congress to Protect the EITC and CTC

 Last week, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs signed on to a letter urging Congress to save critical provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and refundable Child Tax Credit (CTC) before these provisions expire in 2017.  The letter also called on Congress to expand the EITC for low-income childless adults and non-custodial parents.  These recommendations were supported by 160 national organizations, including faith leaders, charities, civil rights advocates, labor advocacy groups, and women’s rights associations.  

If these provisions expire, over 50 million Americans (including 25 million children) will lose massive portions of their tax credits, pushing many working Americans into(or deeper into) poverty.  For example, a single mother with two children who works full time at the minimum wage will lose her entire ETC of $1725.  Some 450,000 veteran families will lose part or all of their CTC, while a similar number would lose portions of their EITC. 

click here to read the letter

click here to tell your Member of Congress to support the EITC and CTC

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JCPA supports Catholic - Jewish relations

 See below for information and events pertaining to JCPA’s continuing commitment to support interfaith dialogue and strong community relations with the Catholic Church:

Fifty years ago, on October 28, 1965, the Catholic Church released Nostra Aetate (In Our Time), a seminal document on the Vatican’s relations with non-Christian religious traditions that was unprecedented in the history of Jewish-Christian relations. Some of the most salient points for Jews and Judaism include the repudiation of the charge of deicide against Jews and the condemnation of “all hatreds, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism directed at Jews at any time or from any source.” In honor of this occasion, JCPA and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) are co-sponsoring a webinar with Rabbi David Fox Sandmel, Director of Interfaith Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday, July 15 at 3:30 pm. To register, click here.

In response to an encyclical (authoritative Catholic teaching) about the environment released by the Vatican, COEJL developed the Guide to Jewish-Catholic Dialogue and the Environment, which includes materials on interfaith relations, Jewish teachings on climate change, and a synopsis of the Pope’s new work. The encyclical, known as Laudate Si', describes the interconnectedness of people and the environment and calls for curbing climate change.  In connection with this document, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Director, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, and Deputy Director, Rachel Laser, will join with US Conference of Catholic Bishops Director of Domestic and Social Development Mark Rohlena, and Catholic Climate Covenant Executive Director Dan Misleh for a discussion. Register for the webinar here and tune in at 12:30 pm on Wednesday, July 15.

click here to register for the JCPA webinar 

click here to download the Guide 

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United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Endorses Gaza Inquiry Report

 On Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution to endorse the council’s Commission of Inquiry Report on last summer’s war in Gaza. 

The JCPA characterized the report itself as “dangerously flawed” because the UNHRC did not properly acknowledge the culpability of Hamas in firing rockets at Israeli civilians and prolonging the conflict by refusing to adhere to cease fire agreements. Unfortunately, the resolution betrayed an even stronger anti-Israel bias by omitting any of the report’s criticisms of the actions of Hamas and independent terrorist groups acting in Gaza. 

The root of the problem is the politicization of the Human Rights Council and the resulting obsession with condemning the State of Israel.  Since its inception nine years ago, the Council has passed more resolutions against Israel than it has against all of the countries in the rest of the world combined.  

The United States was the only country among the UNHRC’s 47 member states that voted against the resolution; five countries (India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Paraguay and Macedonia) abstained from the vote. 

click here to read the full text of the resolution

click here to read the JCPA statement on the report 

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Birkenstocks Not Required: Why We Should All Be Environmental Stewards

 In this  blog-post, Talia Berniker, summer intern for JCPA and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, examines her generation’s need to commit to reducing greenhouse gasses and climate change while reflecting on her own upbringing in Portland, Oregon. In the article, Berniker explains her frustration with the lack of federal funding for clean energy and emphasizes that it is our responsibility as Jews to be “stewards of the environment” in our day-to-day lives. Berniker notes that our inaction on the crisis of climate change will have repercussions on those who live in poverty across the globe. Though Berniker traces her interest in environmental issues to her “liberal, eco-chic upbringing in Portland”, her blog-post emphasizes that climate change is a phenomenon that effects everyone, and that Jews should take a leadership role in tackling this issue. 

click here to read the post 

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A View from the Pew

 Last week, I spent three days in Salt Lake City, Utah, attending the Episcopal Church Triennial convention as a representative of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, where I am honored to sit as a national board member. While visiting Salt Lake City, I also had the opportunity to attend Shabbat morning services at Kol Ami, the local synagogue, and interact with members of the local Jewish community. My "View from the Pew" at both the convention itself and from Kol Ami left me inspired by both the challenges and opportunities that we have, in both the area of intra- Jewish and interfaith relationships. 

At the Episcopal Church convention, I was welcomed with warmth and appreciation. This church has a strong and sincere commitment to interfaith dialogue and cooperation. JCPA and the Office of the Presiding Bishop have a longstanding and strong working relationship in confronting issues of social justice, nationally and internationally, as well as a strong commitment of mutual respect. One of the many moving moments for me at this convention was seeing an exhibit of a U.N. refugee tent with a 3-D video of a young Syrian girl living in such a tent in a refugee camp in Jordan. My suggestion to church leaders that the Episcopal and Jewish communities, hopefully with other faith community partners, could jointly sponsor the display of this tent this fall at the U.N. was met with enthusiasm. This church is deeply committed to both social justice and interfaith partnership.

The Episcopal Church, whose roots in America go back to colonial days and is part of the World Wide Anglican Church Federation, is facing many of the same challenges that our Jewish community is confronting in the rapidly changing ways that 21st century Americans relate to and interact with one another. In my three  days in Salt Lake City, I experienced some truly transformative worship and listened as priests and laity wrestled with issue of liturgical change and questioned themselves as to the ability of their church to reach their next generation. Their debates sounded strikingly familiar and similar to our own internal Jewish struggles.

click here to read more

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Iran Negotiations

 The negotiations regarding Iran’s access to nuclear weapons have been extended for seven more days, as a result of a failed compromise originally planned to be met today. The talks between Iran, The United States, France and other world powers will continue in Vienna where all parties hope to reach a negotiated settlement within the next week. As noted in the Times of Israel, part of the Iran deal involves a UN nuclear agency confirming that Iran has transformed a “substantial amount of enriched uranium into a form that is difficult to use for nuclear arms.” This is important because, depending on its enrichment level, uranium can be used to generate the energy needed to create a nuclear weapon. The Iranian foreign minister and diplomats are working with nuclear experts, including the US Energy Secretary and Secretary of State John Kerry, to negotiate a just nuclear deal. Though an agreement was unable to be met today, all parties involved are hopeful that a deal will be reached within the next week. The final compromise will assure that Iran cannot produce nuclear weapons in exchange for a “path out of international isolation” for the Iranian people. 

click here to read more

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