JCPA Welcomes Expanded Egalitarian Prayer Space at Western Wall

 On Sunday, Israel’s cabinet voted to upgrade an egalitarian prayer space in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. In response, the JCPA issued the following statement: 

February 1, 2106, Washington, D.C., - The decision by the Israeli cabinet to approve an expanded egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall is a welcome step toward improving relations between Israel and the Diaspora and supporting increased participation at Judaism’s holiest site.

The JCPA applauds the determination of concerned denominations in Israel and North America, as well as other dedicated participants, particularly the Women of the Wall, for their unwavering commitment to the realization of this goal. We also recognize the efforts of the prime minister’s office, Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit, and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky for developing the proposal, which will allow for a larger egalitarian prayer space with a more prominent entrance under the control of a pluralistic committee. 

According to David Bernstein, President and CEO of the JCPA, “This decision is a testimony to a spirit of compromise and partnership that is vital to the relationship between Israel and Jews around the world. It is imperative that we work to end those conflicts that lead to sinat chinam, baseless hatred, between those who are part of the global Jewish community.”

“This is a great day for those women and men who have yearned for the opportunity to pray at the Western Wall in the way that is most meaningful to them,” said Susan W. Turnbull, JCPA Chair.

In the aftermath of this significant decision, the JCPA also asks that all those who are involved in the issue go forward in a spirit of civility and commitment to klal yisrael, the community of Israel.

click here to read the official statement
click below for more on the agreement

Read more

Frank Fellow Reflections on Leadership Mission to Israel

 By Marc Schwartz

Honored. That is how I felt when I was selected to be a Frank Fellow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). Looking around at the seven other Fellows, I saw people from all over the country, with successful careers and active community involvement. One member recently had to get confirmed by the state Senate for her current full-time job – so that's full time public service on top of being a volunteer. Being with this crowd meant I had to be at the top of my game just so I had a chance to keep up.

Traveling together in tight, cramped spaces from JFK through Frankfurt to Kraków meant that we all knew a lot about each other – whether we wanted to or not – by the time we exited the plane in the subfreezing Kraków winter. Those tight, cramped spaces included a 15-minute bus ride from the Frankfurt airport terminal to the plane parked some 5 miles away (or at least it seemed that long) yet still somehow on the airport campus.

Spending two days together in Poland reminding us of how our people were humiliated, embarrassed, enslaved, murdered, and treated as property was another shared bonding experience. The Auschwitz weather seemed appropriate as again it was subfreezing and snowing, with the sky seemingly only 10-feet off the ground. We were shivering in two layers of socks and boots, reminding ourselves the prisoners wore nothing but nightgowns. 

Getting to know each other in such a short period of time benefited us throughout the entire trip. It enabled us to do several things. First, not that we were bashful to begin with, there was clearly no hesitation in asking any type of question during presentations, whether just amongst the Fellows or within the larger JCPA mission group, for fear of being laughed at for asking a dumb question. Second, it led to great no-holds-barred honest dialogue and debate between sessions about how we felt about everything from mission organization to our latest program/speaker. I found some of these discussions to be more intense, enlightening, and rewarding than many of the formal programs. Again, direct discussions were only possible because we had spent such intense time together at the trip's beginning. I also think it showed what a good selection of Fellows was made in that every single person was able to hold up his or her end of an argument and everyone was able to keep an open mind as we moved forward.

Frustrated, ideally leading to appreciating different perspectives: that is how I felt at certain parts of every day. Everyone had a differing viewpoint, from our internal JCPA group to the various outside persons we met, ranging from members of Knesset from widely varying political parties (including an Israeli Arab), settlers, Palestinians, government advisors, to others we met on the street. Perhaps my favorite was a store manager who deputized Joel (another Fellow) and me to watch the store for 20 minutes as she ran down the street to find us the perfect gifts to bring back home. Unfortunately, we didn't get an employee discount as Hadara (another Fellow) suggested. The shopkeeper had some specific thoughts on President Obama, his religion, his beliefs, his view of Israel, and other topics that surprised me, which is saying a lot given that I live in the heart of the south and hear some pretty nasty things on a daily basis.

More daily frustration was seeing the different lives the Palestinians and Israelis were living and knowing it is a shame and a travesty that there is not an effective movement toward peace from all sides.


The trip was an undeniable success. I met new people and learned new things every single day. That same success made the reentry process to normal daily life in Atlanta difficult, at best. It took me about a week to get back into my rhythm. Thank you for including me on the trip, and I look forward to continuing to stay involved with both the Frank Fellows and the JCPA.

Read more

Jewish Climate Justice during Black History Month

 In the first week of Black History Month, we read Parshat Mishpatim from the Book of Exodus. Mishpatim is a mandate to act with respect and dignity to all. What does this mean in 2016? In the age of rising rates of asthma and cancer among black Americans, as well as unequal impacts of extreme weather disasters on communities of color, the fight for racial justice is multi-faceted. Climate change is a racial justice issue, and, as Jews, we have a role to play in advocating for climate justice. 

click here to read more

Read more

Frank Fellows

 Eight emerging leaders hailing from San Francisco, CA; Indianapolis, IA; Atlanta, GA; Mount Laurel, NJ; Virginia Beach, VA; St. Louis, MO, and Pittsburgh, PA traveled to Poland to study Jewish history and Israel to join the JCPA leadership mission.  In Poland, the fellows visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi camps and explored Kraków's Jewish history.  In Israel, the journey was packed with exciting meetings, for example with former President Simon Peres and with a group of Palestinian and Jewish settler peace-builders.  The travelers learned about all angles of the complex Palestinian-Israeli situation and Israeli politics.

The Frank Fellowship program was established four years ago by former JCPA board chair Lois Frank and Larry Frank of Atlanta to foster young leadership in the community relations arena.  The 2016 cohort of fellows will be selected in summer 2016. If you are interested in nominating someone, please stay tuned for calls for nominations, or contact Hanna Dershowitz at

Read more

2016 Frank Fellow Reflection

By Deborah Price

On January 25, 2016, I curled up on my couch in my downtown St. Louis loft and flipped open my laptop to skim the news.  A story in the Times of Israel entitled “Israeli Man Fights off Palestinian Stabbers with a Supermarket Cart” caught my eye.  It featured an Israeli man named Mordechai Shalem who reportedly fought off two Palestinian terrorists who were brandishing knives.  

I was struck both by how preposterous the scenario seemed, yet also how frighteningly commonplace it had become.  However, it was Shalem’s description of his experience that ultimately captured my focus.  He said, “[y]ou see two people facing you with their knives raised. I saw the hatred in their eyes, the anger. I knew I had to stop them from getting in.”  As I reread his words, I could feel the Palestinians’ hatred and anger, and I immediately empathized with Shalem and wondered if this insane violence would ever end. 

Prior to participating in the Frank Family Leadership Institute Mission, I am sure my reflections about this stabbing would have ended with that thought.  I likely would have shook my head and turned the page.  Instead, I found myself wondering what the terrorists’ lives were like before that day and what personal experiences led them to this decision.  I realized that they would likely be remembered both as hateful terrorists and as freedom-fighter martyrs, no matter how irreconcilable those descriptions seemed. 

Ultimately, I realized I agree with the assertions that Palestinian activist Ali Abu Awwad made when we visited him in the West Bank at the location of his initiative for peace.  After sharing his difficult personal story, Awwad told us that “both sides have truth and reasons they are right, but each is only a partial truth.” He emphasized that “falsehood is a partial truth masquerading as complete truth.”  Doubtless, the ability to view a conflict from an opposing perspective is a critical step toward moving closer to common ground and, hopefully, peace.  
The invaluable opportunity to learn about and see other perspectives is only one of several ways that my participation in in the Frank Family Fellowship Mission to Poland and Israel impacted my life for the better. On January 3, 2016, I was fortunate to join seven Jews from various parts of the US, along with an energetic and enthusiastic JCPA staff, as we embarked on the 2016 Frank Family Leadership Institute Mission.  The Frank Fellows ranged in age from early 30s to 40s, and proved to be dynamic, intelligent, interesting and compassionate. We began the trip in Krakow, where we toured Auschwitz-Birkenau in frigid temperatures. Two days later, we travelled to Jerusalem, where we joined an experienced generation of members participating on the JCPA Leadership Mission. We also had the pleasure of connecting with Lois and Larry Frank, the benefactors who made the fellowship possible.  Although we would quickly learn that the members of our group had very different perspectives and opinions, we were fundamentally connected as American Jews who want to learn because we care about the safety and security of Israel.

Initially, I was unsure what the overall goal of the trip was or whether we would be expected to promote any specific political agenda.  Fortunately, it quickly became apparent that the Franks and JCPA designed an itinerary that granted us unfettered access to a variety of high-ranking officials from a variety of backgrounds, including professionals from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Knesset, and the Institute for National Security, as well as former President Shimon Peres. We also spoke with professors, journalists, a real estate developer in the West Bank, and a former Palestinian Minister. 

In addition to the various security-related matters, we discussed religious pluralism, Arab/Israeli relations, and the degradation of Israel’s stature around the world.  As we learned about the dramatically different perspectives on these issues, we were encouraged to ask critical questions and respectfully push back when necessary.   Ultimately, Lois and Larry Frank, along with the JCPA staff, led us through an intense learning experience that left me with a newfound confidence in my basic understanding of the major issues facing Israel, the region, and Jews around the world. 

Despite the intensive travel and meeting schedule and related mental and physical exhaustion, I know I was not the only person who actually felt energized and re-connected to a strong sense of purpose.   Despite the complexity of the issues Israel faces and despite being in the thick of the conflict where many perspectives left me feeling frustrated and hopeless, I ultimately found an unwavering belief that peace in Israel is possible.  As former President Shimon Peres said when we met with him, “the choice is not between the left and right, but instead the past and future….we must teach our children not how to remember but how to dream….and we must make the future a better place for all people of all nations.”  I am grateful for the opportunity to play even a tiny part in that effort. 

Read more

Waters of the U.S.

Administration stands behind Clean Water Rule, after Congress sought to repeal  

Thank the White House for protecting clean water with this action alert!  Access to clean water is a fundamentally Jewish value.  The Clean Water Act is a key piece of legislation that regulates our water resources, ensuring that all Americans have equal access to water, free from pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers put forward the Clean Water Rule to ensure that the Waters of the Unite States (WOTUS) are kept safe.  Last fall, Jewish community leadership came to Washington D.C. to speak to their elected officials about the importance of clean water.  Last week, however, the House of Representatives joined the Senate in voting to overturn the rule.  The White House then vetoed the Congressional vote, ensuring that we will be able to enact the Clean Water Rule.

You can read COEJL's statement on the vote here

Rabbis and Cantors advocate for clean water

Read more

2016 JCPA Leadership Mission to Israel

 Although it might be called the worst of clichés, those who attempt an in-depth understanding of the challenges, opportunities, and realities faced by the state of Israel often say the same thing: it’s complicated. Participants in the JCPA’s recent leadership mission to Israel may well have reached the same conclusion after an intense and informative trip that took place last week.

A few of the highlights of the itinerary:

           JCPA Chair Susie Turnbull in conversation with former President of Israel Shimon Peres: this exclusive audience with one of the most distinguished political figures of the post-World War II era took place in the main auditorium of the Peres Center, with the setting sun on the Mediterranean Sea as a backdrop.

           Intense and honest exchanges between participants and Members of Knesset Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Tzipi Livni (Zionist Camp), Rachel Azaria (Kulanu), and Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List).

           A panel at the Van Leer Institute on religious pluralism in Israel with Rabbi Naftali Rothenberg (Orthodox), Rabbi Gilad Kariv (Reform/Progressive), Adv. Yizhar Hess (Conservative/Masorti), and Dr. Ruth Calderon (Secular).

           A discussion with Oded Revivi, Mayor of the town of Efrat in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc.

           A presentation from and dialogue with Amir Dajani, developer of Rawabi, a new, planned Palestinian city in the West Bank.

In the coming weeks, participants in the mission will share some of their impressions of the trip in JCPActs. Until then, perhaps Nobel prize winner Saul Bellow’s reflections in his personal account To Jerusalem and Back will serve as a fitting placeholder:

“Here in Jerusalem, when you shut your apartment door behind you, you fall into a gale of conversation—exposition, argument, harangue, analysis, theory, expostulation, threat, and prophecy . . . I listen carefully, closely, more closely than I’ve ever listened in my life, utterly attentive, but I often feel that I have been dropped into a shoreless sea.”

Read more

Implementation Day

 In the context of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program, January 16, 2016 was “Implementation Day.” The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified that Iran had completed all of the steps outlined in the deal, which means that  sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear activities will be temporarily lifted or waived. However, U.S. sanctions relating to Iran’s support of terrorist activity; human rights abuses; destabilizing intervention in regional hot spots like Syria and Yemen; and development of ballistic missile technology and conventional weapons will remain in place.

To gain sanctions relief, Iran had to:

  • Reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by about 98 percent (25,000 pounds)
  • Dismantle and remove two-thirds of its centrifuges (leaving a total of 5,060 centrifuges)
  • Remove the core of its heavy water reactor at Arak (Iran’s source of plutonium production)

For a timeline of the JCPOA that puts Implementation Day in a larger context, click here

For a detailed description of the types of sanctions that will be lifted, click here.

In related news, a prisoner swap took place that freed four Americans imprisoned in Iran in exchange for the United States pardoning or dropping charges for seven Iranians accused or convicted of sanctions violations. A fifth American was released in a separate deal, but Robert Levinson, who has been missing in Iran since 2007, was not part of the exchange. 

Click here for more information about this story.  

Read more

Tu'Bshvat - The Jewish Holiday for the Trees

 The Jewish holiday for the trees falls on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat, which coincides with January 25th this year. The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life has created a whole collection of resources for celebrating this major Jewish environmental holiday. COEJL has sermon starters, source sheets, and articles that can help you spread the word about this holiday! Many families and congregations host a special Seder for Tu’BShvat. Host a Tu’Bshvat Seder this year using the COEJL Haggaddah by Rabbi David Seidenberg.

Read more

Purple State Strategies

 By David Bernstein, JCPA President and CEO 

With growing challenges to Israel’s legitimacy and American pluralism, we need now, more than ever, a strong and focused Jewish community relations movement. In the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, much of the Jewish community viewed the community relations agenda – public advocacy and relationship-building on behalf of the Jewish community – as central to Jewish security and wellbeing.

During this golden age of community relations, according to Steven Windmueller, a scholar and former practitioner, the Jewish community widely embraced a notion of the common good. In this view, Jewish wellbeing depended upon American pluralism. If society treated all minority groups well, it would treat Jews well too. Jewish community relations organizations thus fought for the rights of all people not just out of a commitment to social justice but as a means to protect Jews from intolerance.

Beginning in the 1990s, things began to change. Philanthropic priorities shifted and Jewish civic life fragmented. American Jews felt safer than ever before. Many abandoned the notion of the common good in favor of a narrower view of Jewish self-interest focused on combating assaults on Israel’s legitimacy and threats to Jewish communities abroad.

Windmueller explains that the Jewish community relations field split into “red state” interests concerned primarily with Israel and anti-Semitism, and “blue state” interests still devoted to the common good. Red staters founded “boutique” operations outside the traditional community relations establishment. Many were highly critical of blue state groups for diluting their agendas, while blue state groups were equally critical of red staters for parochializing theirs.

But there are merits and shortcomings in both schools of thought. It’s time that the Jewish community relations movement reconcile these seemingly contradictory approaches and adopt a “Purple State Strategy.”

click here to read more

Read more

Let’s work together to #EndHumanTrafficking


Let’s work together to #EndHumanTrafficking

January marks Human Trafficking Awareness Month and Thursday, January 14th is Jewish Community Day of Action to #EndHumanTrafficking. In 2014 the National Human Trafficking hot line received over 21,000 calls reporting suspected human trafficking yet, the Department of Justice brought just 208 federal human trafficking prosecutions. Within the U.S. women, men, teenagers, and children (both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals) can fall prey to traffickers.  

Over 40 years ago Congress passed the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) creating programs and services that help runaway and homeless youth gain stability, reconnect with their families, and prevent them from becoming chronically homeless. Last year’s RHYA reauthorization, the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (S.262), included street outreach programs to help build relationships and provide for vital services; temporary housing and transitional living, including education, job preparation, and health services; and funds for a national study to collect additional data on the needs of runaway and homeless youth.  For the first time, the bill also included civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. Research has shown that upwards of 40% of all American homeless youth identify as LGBT and are at increased risk for sex trafficking. 

Join JCPA, National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Hadassah, The Jewish Federations of North America, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Jewish Women International, Project Kesher, The Workmen's Circle and Association for Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies for Jewish Community day to #EndHumanTrafficking.

Take action! Write your Senators and tell them to ensure the passage of the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act!

See the Jewish Community Day of Action to #EndHumanTrafficking social media kit and resources here.

Read more

Welcome Message from David Bernstein

 It is with great excitement that I join the JCPA team this month. I am truly honored to work with a fantastic staff team, a committed group of volunteer leaders, and a dynamic Jewish community relations movement. The JCPA has been at the forefront of advocating for Jewish concerns. It has played a critical role in strengthening local Jewish community relations efforts, which have been a driver of social progress and enhanced understanding of Israel. And it has built consensus among Jewish groups at critical junctures in our history. 

I doubt there has been a time in modern American Jewish history when there's been a greater need for effective community relations. There are new and powerful threats to American pluralism and to Israel's security and wellbeing. Both at the national and local levels, community relations work is indispensable. We must be at our best.

I have a lot to learn in my new role. I will start off by scheduling dozens of conversations with varied stakeholders, from JCRC staff and lay leaders to partner organizations to current staff and lay leaders. What can the JCPA do to strengthen the Jewish community relations movement and advance both our domestic and international agendas?  What does a 21st Century community relations strategy and agenda look like?

I hope you will help me answer these questions in the coming weeks and months and that together we can take on these challenges. 


David Bernstein
JCPA President & CEO 

Read more (1 comment)

POTUS Action on Gun Violence

 Today, Jared Feldman, JCPA Vice President and Washington Director joined victims of gun violence and their families, law enforcement officials, and advocates to hear President Obama announce his new firearm safety policies. Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school, over 90,000 Americans have been killed by guns: in the streets, in movie theaters, in churches, and at home. The President, joined by Vice President Biden, described an integrated approach that includes strengthening the instant background check system, enforcing current laws, increasing access to critical mental health services, and spurring new gun safety technologies. The JCPA has been a leading voice in the need to for comprehensive policy address gun violence. In 2013, right after the shooting in Newtown which killed 20 first graders and six of their educators, the JCPA launched its #EndGunViolence Campaign. Since that time, over 10,000 individuals have joined the effort.    
click here to read the 2013 JCPA Resolution on Mass Violence

Read more (1 comment)

Celebrate Tu B'Shvat with COEJL!

 Tu B’Shvat is just around the corner! The Jewish holiday for the trees falls on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat, which this year coincides with January 25th. The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life has created a whole basket of resources for celebrating this major Jewish environmental holiday. Many celebrate Tu B’Shvat by hosting a Seder with fresh fruits and prayers for our earth. Check out COEJL’s Simple Tu B’Shvat Seder that you can host at home or in your congregation. Tu B’Shvat is also an opportunity to study the connection between Judaism and the environment. COEJL has sermon starters, source sheets, and articles that can help you start the conversation!

Read more

All the voices at the table: a message from JCPA chair Susan W. Turnbull

 At the end of this tumultuous year, I want to remind you why JCPA’s work is critical. The work we do matters to our communities, to Israel, and across the world. I am constantly reminded why I am proud to be part of JCPA. JCPA is dedicated to safeguarding human rights here and around the world — and to the safety and security of the state of Israel. We want to keep responding, but we can’t do it without your help.

In 2015, JCPA provided assistance to over 100 communities like yours on literally dozens of issues. We organized missions that brought non-Jewish leaders to Israel. We were at the forefront in responding to boycott and divestment efforts in churches, on campuses, and at companies. We responded to anti-Semitic incidents in several states, navigated church-state separation issues, and helped foster better relations with our Christian neighbors. And we continue to help communities restore civility to debates on Israel, immigration, and the contentious issues of our day. With your support we will enhance our efforts to restore civility in all discourse, counter the delegitimization of Israel, and raise awareness and advocate to combat poverty in America.  

JCPA stands for all the voices at the table. We organize and provide the tools for communities across our country. JCPA weaves together all elements of social justice work, and that makes JCPA a unique and necessary institution. We can’t do it without you.

There is much more work that needs to be done, and we are the people to do it together. Whether we are looking back to our history — or to the future, the American Jewish community needs JCPA’s voice. This is what we do at JCPA. We need your support to help us do just that.

Your gift will strengthen our bonds with our allies and move an agenda that originates in our communities. Whatever you can give will make a difference.

-Susan W. Turnbull
 JCPA Chair 

Read more (1 comment)

Webinar on climate change

 This month, we saw the global community take major strides toward emissions reductions to combat climate change at the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris. Additionally, Angela Barranco from the White House Council on Environmental Quality joined the Washington Interfaith Staff Council for a webinar on the next steps beyond the Paris negotiations as we look forward to 2016. COEJL Manager Liya Rechtman spoke on the webinar about her experience as the Jewish community representative in Paris, where she led women’s interfaith prayer vigils, and also on the Coalition’s climate finance advocacy. You can watch the recording here.

Read more (1 comment)

Congress passes bipartisan funding and tax package for 2016

 Last Friday, Congress passed a $1.8 trillion funding and tax package.  House and Senate leaders were able to compromise and implement a November agreement, which eased some of the spending sequester cuts.   

The package included improving and making permanent the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), two of JCPA’s Confronting Poverty Initiative's priority policies. These combined tax breaks lift about 16 million Americans, including 8 million children, out of poverty (or help them come close) each year. Further, the bill included extending tax incentives for renewable energy that will help build a modern energy system and reduce carbon pollution, a priority for the JCPA's environmental initiative, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. 

The parallel appropriations bill provided funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which supports millions of expectant mothers and young children.  Further, the legislation invested in critical opportunity programs for children, including Headstart, Preschool Development Block Grants, and Childcare and Development Block grants.

With respect to foreign affairs, the funding bill provided support for our allies through foreign assistance programs, allocated additional funding for refugees and displaced persons, and resourced defense programs such as tunnel detection and anti-missile systems in Israel that can help protect against terrorism and save lives. Members of Congress have now headed home for recess, with the House and Senate back in session by January 11, 2016.

Read JCPA’s Press release on the Bipartisan Appropriations and Tax Compromise

Read how the new tax deal may benefit you  

Read more (1 comment)

COEJL Celebrates Climate Agreement

 The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) joins the global celebration over the signing of an international agreement to combat climate change! The agreement was finalized Saturday, following two weeks of negotiations at the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris. COEJL Manager Liya Rechtman was in Paris as a representative for the Jewish community. Following the agreement, COEJL Chair, Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, issued the following statement that you can read here.
COEJL will be speaking on two interfaith update calls this week in response to the agreement in Paris. You can tune in on Wednesday at 1PM EST (712) 832-8330, access code: 2307680 for a conversation with Interfaith Power and Light. You can also sign up here for a webinar with the Washington Inter-religious Staff Council on Friday at 10AM EST.

Read more (1 comment)

Combating Human Trafficking Starts With Us

 On December 8, JCPA and JFNA convened a call with community relations and Federation professionals to detail the national landscape of human trafficking, defined as the illegal movement of people for the purpose of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. The call was joined by Keeli Sorensen, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy for Polaris Project, who discussed the three types of human trafficking: minor, sex, and labor. 

Polaris Project operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline. Between January and September of 2015, the hotline received 16,678 calls reporting 4,168 cases of human trafficking. Unfortunately, some victims of labor trafficking are people we may engage with regularly, without knowing their plight. Labor trafficking occurs most commonly among domestic workers, traveling sales crews, agricultural and animal husbandry workers, restaurant and food service workers, and health and beauty services professionals.

This country’s most significant commitment to ending human trafficking came in 2000 with the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which increased prosecution of traffickers, established guidelines for preventing future trafficking, and provided services for victims and survivors. The TVPA also established the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, which produces the annual Trafficking in Persons report that ranks every country’s efforts to end this billion-dollar criminal industry. 


Our Congressional representatives still have much work to do to address this matter, and it is crucial to support their efforts and show our commitment to ending what amounts to modern-day slavery. January marks Human Trafficking Awareness Month; join us for a Jewish Day of action to #EndHumanTrafficking on January 14, 2016.

For more information and forthcoming resources for a Jewish day of action to #EndHumanTrafficking contact JCPA Policy Associate Krissy Roth -

Read more

Anti-Semitism in Hungary

 Last week, JCPA held an informational conference call with community relations professionals and lay leaders because the Hungarian town of Székesfehérvár plans to erect a life-size bronze statue in honor of Bálint Hóman, a Nazi supporter and leading advocate for the anti-Jewish laws that led to the persecution and deportation of nearly 600,000 Hungarian Jews during World War II. Hóman was a minister of religion and education in Hungary’s government before and during the war.

The call featured Ira Forman, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism for the US State Department, and Samantha Dubrinsky, Director of Community Impact at the Birmingham Jewish Federation. Birmingham has a sister city relationship with Székesfehérvár. 

Some members of the private group that raised the funds for the statue, the Bálint Hóman Foundation, are linked to the far-right Jobbik party. The group has also received both state and municipal funding for the statue, which will be located in the town of Székesfehérvár, a city of 100,000 inhabitants located about 37 miles southwest of Budapest.

For more general information and background on this issue, click here. To learn more about Birmingham’s actions to condemn the statue, click here.

Read more (1 comment)

JCPA announces David Bernstein as new President and CEO

 The JCPA has completed an extensive national search for its next President and CEO. Long-time Jewish advocacy professional and Washington DC-area resident David Bernstein has been appointed to the post. 

“We are delighted that David will come aboard as our next President and CEO,” stated Larry Gold, chair of the executive search committee and immediate past Chairman of the Board. “David brings a wealth of experience in the community relations field, tremendous advocacy experience, and a proven track record in building and transforming organizations.” 

For the last year, David has traveled across the country working with Jewish Federations and national foundations as the President of CultureSolutionsLLC, which offers a range of services designed to help organizations adjust to the demands of a 21st-century economy.

From 2010-2014, Bernstein was the Executive Director of the David Project, which works to improve Israel’s image on college campuses across the country. Bernstein transformed the organization from what was widely considered to be an ideologically-charged, right-of-center operation to a more nuanced, centrist group focusing on relationship-based advocacy. 

Prior to his time at the David Project, Bernstein held a series of senior roles at the American Jewish Committee and was the director of the organization’s Washington regional office.  Bernstein also spent more than three years working at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, where he did community and government relations on behalf of the 60,000 Jews living in Northern Virginia.

click here to read the JCPA statement on the announcement 
Read more here 

Read more (1 comment)

COEJL celebrates Hanukkah!

 The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life celebrates Hanukkah this week as the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) continues in Paris. The UNFCCC is now in its second week, and international negotiators are determining whether they will be able to come to an agreement on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
Interested in reading more? Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb reflected on Parshat Vayeshev last week. Interfaith Power and Light’s Yaira Robinson wrote on finding light amidst the darkness of climate change. Finally, COEJL Manager Liya Rechtman sent word from Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral on the power of hope and prayer.

Read more (1 comment)

Standing up to gun violence in America

 University of Michigan student and Central Student Government representative Easy access to firearms and the accompanying violence has taken a terrible toll on America. On December 2, our nation faced yet another senseless mass shooting when two assailants gunned down 14 people and injured another 17 at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California. This marks the second shooting in the last few weeks: just after Thanksgiving, a lone gunman killed 3 people and injured another 9 at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. We must end these incidents of mass violence.   

No one should have to live in terror, knowing that a gunman with a semi-automatic rifle could walk into any public place and kill dozens. A July 2015 Pew Study showed that 48% and 70% of adults identifying as Republicans or Democrats, respectively, were in favor of a ban on assault weapons. Now is the time for our public officials to take action. Without enacting stronger policies on background checks for all gun purchases and instituting a mandatory waiting period, how can we expect to feel safer in our communities and end these tragedies?    

While opinion polls indicate broad support for governmental regulation on firearms, state legislatures and Congress have all too often been hesitant to enact much-needed gun safety legislation. No community or segment of society is safe from gun violence. Join us in urging President Obama, Members of Congress, and every citizen to take direct and unequivocal action to stop the outrageous and unacceptable violence that is destroying the fabric of our society. 

Tell our nation’s leaders and elected officials to pass legislation to stop gun violence

Read the July 2015 Pew Study on bipartisan support for expansion of background checks

Read more

This is what the JCPA does:

 “The world is a scary place. It is hard not to feel vulnerable...and even angry. People are retreating into bubbles. That just makes it worse. We MUST meet, know, and discuss who we are, what we believe, and how to work together.  The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) does that. JCPA creates dialogue between various religions and amongst ourselves.”

-    Jane Schiff, Naples, Florida

“JCPA takes a leading role in coordinating Jewish interfaith efforts.  Dynamic new programs like Interfaith Partners for Peace bring Jews and Christians together in cities across America.”
-    Rabbi Leonard Gordon, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

“Poverty isn’t a disease. It isn’t a tropical storm. And it isn’t a terror threat. It may not be in the news, but it hasn’t gone away… through its (the JCPA) network of 125 Jewish communities, JCPA is the pre-eminent Jewish advocate for programs that give hope to the poor.”
-    Warren Wolfson, Cleveland, Ohio

These are just a few words from three of the tens of thousands of JCPA supporters throughout the United States.  No one can do it alone.  From combating anti-Semitism to confronting poverty, promoting civility, and protecting Israel, the JCPA is connecting our communities to take action together. And we have a lot of work to do. Join us as we strengthen the Jewish community and bring people together to address the most important issues of our time.  

Today, on #GivingTuesday, join in our work and contribute $18

click here to donate

Read more

Live update from Paris

 Nations framework convention on climate change began yesterday in Paris. COEJL manager Liya Rechtman is attending as a delegate with Religions for Peace USA in order to advocate for an equitable agreement that protects the most vulnerable countries and communities around the world. Rechtman is joining with other young female faith leaders from around the world to cosponsor a series of interfaith prayer vigils to advocate for a strong and ambitious agreement. More to come on!

click here to read more about COEJL

Read more

Tic Toc Goes the Budget Clock

 It’s that time of year again in Washington when lawmakers must pass the annual budget, this time set to expire on December 11, 2015. In October, Congress relaxed sequester caps that would have cut deeply across the budget and instead raised spending levels for FY 16-17, adding $50 billion split evenly between defense and non-defense spending for 2016.  Before this budget/debt limit deal was struck, domestic human needs programs were likely to see drastic cuts, leaving millions of Americans without critical hunger and poverty assistance. Now, WIC, child nutrition programs, Social Security Disability Insurance, and more are likely to remain at the same funding levels. In the previous compromise, Congress also increased the debt ceiling, decreasing the pressure in the current talks.

In the past few weeks, lawmakers have suggested several policy provisions known as “riders” that may be attached to the budget.  Many of the proposals are highly controversial, such as discontinuing funding for Planned Parenthood, blocking resettlement for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, preventing implementation of EPA clean water rules, and repealing various provisions of the Affordable Care Act such as the Medicaid expansion and individual and employer mandates.  However, President Obama has threatened to veto spending bills that include any of these provisions. 

In the next few weeks, lawmakers will also be voting on extending tax breaks – principally to businesses – for the upcoming tax year.  Anti-poverty advocates are also urging Congress to extend and make permanent the expiring provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Together, EITC and the CTC are the most effective anti-poverty programs in the United States.  

Read more

AAA Boycott

 Last week, members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) voted in favor of a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions at its annual business meeting by a margin of 1,040 to 136. At the same meeting, members failed to incorporate an amendment to the resolution reaffirming its long standing commitment to non-discrimination based upon national origin. This resolution's aim to boycott all Israeli academic institutions can have lasting impacts on long standing relationships with Israeli institutions such as Yad Vashem – Israel’s National Holocaust Museum - and its International School.

The resolution was passed after the AAA Task Force on Engagement with Israel/Palestine outlined recommendations on how the association should best engage with the issue. The Task Force also said that ‘no option’ should be removed from consideration and thereafter members attended the annual business meeting to vote on this resolution. Following its approval from the business meeting the resolution is being submitted to its full membership of over 10,000 to formally vote for or against the resolution this spring.

The American Anthropological Association is the world’s largest association for professional anthropologists, with more than 10,000 members. It was founded in 1902. 

click here to read the IAN statement

click here to read the JCPA statement
click here to read more 

Read more

Taking Action Together on #GivingTuesday

 This year, the JCPA is joining charities, philanthropies, and community organizations, across the country for #GivingTuesday, which is on December 1st, 2015. Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, celebrates generosity by encouraging supporters to donate to their favorite non-profit organizations. The JCPA unifies the Jewish community to take action together. Through our work, we are bringing together the Jewish community, building an open and pluralistic nation, protecting Israel, and making a more just world. We hope you join us in celebrating this Giving Tuesday and contribute to all the work we do at the JCPA.

click here to donate to the JCPA

click here to read more about #GivingTuesday

Read more

Anti-Human Trafficking call with Polaris Project - Change of Date

 On December 8, the JCPA and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) will co-host a call to discuss national and state policies addressing sex and labor trafficking. We will be joined by Keeli Sorensen, Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy for the Polaris Project. With more than ten years of experience assisting exploited and trafficked populations, Ms. Sorensen leads Polaris's federal policy engagement efforts.

Join us on Tuesday, December, 8 at 3:00 PM EST, PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE OF DATE, for a call on anti-human trafficking with guest speaker Keeli Sorensen. Please RSVP to Krissy Roth to RSVP at

click here to learn more about the Polaris project

Read more

Terror in Paris

 Following the horrific attacks in Paris last week, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) issued a statement in solidarity with the people of Paris. The statement offered words of condolences to the families of the victims and prayers for those injured in the attack. Despite the horrific nature of the Parisian attack, the statement also called attention to the global victims of terror and the threat of the Islamic State. Finally the JCPA called upon the international community to ensure greater security for civilians and confront terrorism. 

click here to read the JCPA statement

Read more

Boycotting the Boycott: IAN Workshop on BDS at the JFNA General Assembly

 This year, the Jewish Federations of North America held its General Assembly in Washington D.C. from November 8-10th. One central theme of this multiday conference was the growing sophistication of the BDS movement, as well as the new ways Israel faces assaults on her legitimacy. Once again, the Israel Action Network (IAN) stole the show during its breakout session, entitled "Boycotting the Boycott: Strategies for Addressing BDS on Campus and in Your Community." This workshop, stylized as a Ted Talk, was given to a standing-room-only crowd by IAN's Director of Community Strategy, Noam Gilboord. Gilboord first discussed how those who seek to delegitimize Israel use rhetorical human rights based language designed to appeal to and build coalitions of solidarity with progressive constituencies in America.  Following this informative presentation, Gilboord then split the group into three groups, each of which was led in a rapid-response training session to learn strategies to address delegitimization on campuses, within academic associations, and in churches. To facilitate this, Gilboord was joined by Ethan Felson, Senior Vice President of the JCPA, and Avi Weinryb, IAN’s Assistant Director for Community Strategy and Communications, each offering guidance to the group that fell under their specialization. At the end of the workshop, members of each group described to the entire audience their methodology in combating delegitimization. 

click here to learn more about the IAN

Read more

JCPA/JFNA Anti-Human Trafficking Call with Polaris Project

 It is estimated that there are nearly 21 million people living in modern day slavery worldwide. JCPA and JFNA have been working hand and hand to combat human trafficking by advocating for federal policy solutions alongside interfaith and secular partners and raising awareness of this multi-billion dollar criminal industry. On December 2, we will be co-host a discussion featuring Keeli Sorensen, Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy for the Polaris Project, who will discuss national and state policies addressing sex and labor trafficking. 

To join us on Wednesday, December 2 at 3:00 PM EST for a call on antihuman trafficking with guest speaker Keeli Sorensen, please RSVP to Krissy Roth to RSVP at

click here to learn more about the Polaris Project

Read more

JCRC mission to DC

 The Indianapolis JCRC’s “Legislative Mission to DC” took place today in Washington. JCRC executive director Lindsay Mintz and Director of Government Affairs David Sklar accompanied 13 Indiana state legislators and 13 Jewish communal lay leaders to the nation’s capital for a one-day-fly-in. 

This is the fifth mission to Washington taken by the JCRC over the past decade. The goal of the trip is to identify a bipartisan group of state legislators from the Indiana General Assembly in the interest of strengthening their relationship with the JCRC and the Jewish community. 

The purpose of the mission is twofold: to teach key state leaders about issues that are a priority for Jewish community advocates and to allow for a full day of interaction and relationship-building between state legislators and JCRC lay leadership and staff.

Mintz describes the program as a “win-win” situation that “pays relationship dividends for years to come, and fulfills a central part of our mission to foster respectful and open dialogue, increase understanding, and inspire action.”  

Judy Failer, JCRC board president, added “The Indy JCRC is so proud of this program. After an intense day of learning with leaders from national Jewish advocacy organizations, our state legislators have a greater appreciation for the Jewish community’s interest in a broad range of domestic and global issues. This also allows us the unique opportunity to bring lay leaders and state legislators together in conversation, which enables us and the JCRC professionals to be more effective advocates on behalf of the Jewish community.”

The full day of programming included a guided visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and three panel discussions on current issues and how they relate to the Jewish community. This year, those three issues were domestic policy initiatives; anti-Semitism, Israel delegitimization and Christian/Jewish relations; and the Jewish community’s response to the Iran nuclear agreement. Ethan Felson, JCPA’s Vice President and Legal Counsel, and Noam Gilboord, Director of Community Strategy for the Israel Action Network, participated on the panel on anti-Semitism, Israel delegitimization and Christian/Jewish relations, and Linda Maizels, JCPA’s Director of Israel and International Concerns, spoke on the Iran panel.

Read more

COEJL goes to Paris

 COEJL Manager Liya Rechtman will be travelling to Paris for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as a “Religions for Peace” delegate. She is the first Jewish community professional to announce that she will be attending the conference. The Religions for Peace USA Paris Cohort is comprised of Jewish, Muslim, Mennonite, and Zoroastrian lay leaders and a Baptist preacher. The diversity of the delegation mirrors the spirit of the international negotiations. Read the COEJL statement on the trip here.

Read more


 This year, JCPA is joining countless charities, philanthropies, community organizations, and other charitable organizations for #GivingTuesday, which is on December 1st, 2015. Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and its purpose is to celebrate generosity by donating to your favorite non-profit organization or charity. We hope you join us in celebrating this day and will consider contributing to the JCPA to help support our work on behalf of the Jewish community.

click here to donate to the JCPA

click here to read more about #GivingTuesday

Read more

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! 

Read more

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

Read more (1 comment)

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

Read more


 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

Read more

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. 

Read more (1 comment)

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!

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more


 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! 

Read more

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.

Read more

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

Read more

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!

Read more

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.  

Read more

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

Read more