The Farm Bill is a broad piece of legislation that includes funding for a range of programs from farm subsidies to biofuel to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps). Current programs have been funded through the end of September, but reauthorization of the bill has been delayed by more than a year of negotiations. Committee work in both the House of Representatives and the Senate on a full reauthorization begins this week.
In the Senate, many parts of the bill are similar to last year’s, including an approximate $4.1 billion cut to SNAP over the next ten years. This cut comes from targeting a program called “Heat and Eat,” which especially affects benefits for seniors and people with disabilities. From last year’s estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, the $4.1 billion cut to SNAP in the original Senate bill would result in cuts to benefits for 500,000 households by approximately $90 a month. The House of Representatives has gone even further with a staggering $21 billion cut to SNAP, including cuts to Heat and Eat, categorical eligibility, and other important nutrition programs. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, these cuts would eliminate food assistance to nearly 2 million low-income people.
Anti-hunger advocates, including the JCPA, are taking action this week by reaching out to Congressional offices, urging them to draft and support a Farm Bill that protects and strengthens SNAP.
On Monday, May 13, the JCPA led a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and Jewish community leaders that touched on such topics as the Middle East peace process, Syria, Iran, Turkey, and Sudan. The meeting included representatives of The Jewish Federations of North America, UJA-Federation of New York, and the JCRC of New York. JCPA President and CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow, who gave Ambassador Rice a decorative Mezuzah inscribed with a tribute to her steadfast support of Israel and advocacy for U.S. values and interests at the U.N., called Rice “an important ally” and thanked her for working to achieve “a safer, more peaceful world.”
The JCPA this week also released a statement applauding the recent decision by Israel’s Attorney General to move against gender segregation in public spaces. The policy is aimed at discrimination on public busses, sidewalks, at cemeteries, and elsewhere. At the 2012 JCPA Plenum in Detroit, the Jewish community adopted a consensus resolution criticizing inappropriate gender segregation and calling on the Israeli government, communities, and individuals to end the practice of denying women equal access to busses and other public secular spaces. At the time, JCPA Chair Larry Gold said, We are proud to have brought the community together to speak out on this important issue and we are pleased that Israel is taking the appropriate steps to address this situation.”
The EPA has proposed new “Tier 3” rules on vehicle emissions in order to make our air cleaner. The new standards would reduce sulfur emissions in gasoline by over 60%. Gasoline and vehicle emissions reductions combined would reduce nitrogen oxides (NOX), non-methane organic gases (NMOG), and particulate matter emissions by 60-80%. Similar standards are already being met in California, Europe, and Japan.
COEJL is hosting a webinar about these proposed rules, which are expected to save hundreds of lives a year.
Join representatives from the American Lung Association, Consumers Union, and the Union of Concerned Scientists on Tuesday, May 28 at 2 pm to learn how EPA’s proposed new rules will be good for health, consumers, and the environment, and find out what you can do to support them.
Submitted by Ben Thu May 09 2013 17:23:22 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Join us for the Board and Task Force Meetings to learn and help shape the future of Jewish communal advocacy.
Starting on Sunday, take your seat at the Jewish community’s round table for the latest on JCPA’s activities and a talk from longtime Jewish leader and author of the book “If I am Only For Myself…”, Ted Mann. Ted will discuss his book, the changes in the Jewish community over his decades of work, and where we should go next.
Then, on Monday, begin that next step forward at the Task Force Meetings where national experts meet with Jewish community leaders and advocates from around the country to discuss the issues of the day and how we can make a difference. One of the growing challenges we will address are is the relationship between American protestant churches and Israel. Are they pro-Palestinian? Pro-Israel? Pro-peace? Join us to understand the challenge and what role there is for the Jewish community.
Other topics this year include immigration, poverty, Syria, and more.
Submitted by Ben Thu May 09 2013 17:23:03 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Last month, a bipartisan group of Senators called the Gang of Eight proposed a bill to comprehensively reform our immigration system. In a statement, JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow welcomed the bipartisan effort and said, “we must now seize the opportunity to restore dignity for the aspiring Americans amongst us and renew our nation’s laws so that they reflect and respect our values.”
Now is your chance to help build that momentum and support for a more just immigration system. Please take a moment to thank the Gang of Eight - Senators Schumer (D-NY), McCain (R-AZ), Durbin (D-IL), Graham (R-SC), Menendez (D-NJ), Rubio (R-FL), Bennet (D-CO), and Flake (R-AZ) - for reaching a bipartisan compromise to repair our nation’s broken immigration system. The recently introduced bill offers a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, modernizes the visa system, strengthens our economy, protects families, treats American and immigrant workers fairly, and begins to make the refugee and asylum systems more just.
Submitted by Ben Thu May 09 2013 17:21:54 GMT-0400 (EDT)
On April 15 and 16, IAN’s Director of Community Strategy, Noam Gilboord, travelled to Cincinnati to train members of the Jewish community and its allies on countering the assault on Israel’s legitimacy.
To begin, Gilboord spoke with approximately 25 lay leaders from the Jewish Federation and JCRC, including the Federation’s CEO Shep Englander, on how to effectively communicate messages and themes that simultaneously support Israel, a two-state solution and respond to arguments from the global BDS movement. This session was followed by a smaller meeting with key JCRC members to develop a skeleton structure plan for better engagement with local Christian leadership.
Submitted by Ben Tue Apr 30 2013 18:11:16 GMT-0400 (EDT)
The Green Hevra, a network of 16 Jewish environmental organizations administered by the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), convened its 2013 spring gathering last week. The group focused on collective action on sustainable climate, how best to mobilize some of the country's most engaged Jewish environmental groups, and an upcoming report that analyzes the Jewish environmental movement in the United States. The report is based on data that was collected through a map of Jewish environmental initiatives created by the Green Hevra.
Member organizations within the Green Hevra are preparing collaborative actions and resources around Shabbat Behar, the weekly Torah portion in which Shmittah, or the sabbatical year, is introduced, and formed a taskforce to plan a Tu B’shvat Seder for 2014 that will include an advocacy component. The Green Hevra is funded by the Nathan Cummings and Morningstar Foundations.
Submitted by Ben Tue Apr 30 2013 18:10:59 GMT-0400 (EDT)
JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow, in Israel this week, took a trip to Ramallah for a one-on-one meeting with outgoing Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in his office. The two talked about Fayyad’s decision to resign and his hopes for the future. The Palestinian Authority will find new leadership, Fayyad said, calling it an important part of the growth of any political entity. And he himself will find new ways to continue his work in building the infrastructure for a Palestinian state outside of working directly for the Palestinian Authority.
On Tuesday, April 23rd Susan Turnbull and Martin Raffel represented the JCPA at a small gathering of Jewish leaders in Washington, DC hosted by Jordan’s King Abdullah II. The Jordanian monarch discussed a broad array of Middle East issues, with particular emphasis on the unfolding crisis in Syria and its potentially grave implications not only for his country but for Turkey, Lebanon and Israel. The Jewish leaders praised the King for his moderation, for Jordan’s peaceful relations with Israel, and for his government’s commitment to move toward greater democracy.
Submitted by Ben Tue Apr 30 2013 16:55:36 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Slavery is alive today. That shocking, yet true statement was the central message in the April 23, 2013 panel discussion, Combat Human Trafficking. While some in attendance had some idea that these horrors are playing out around the world, in our country, our states and even in our own neighborhoods, many had no idea about the extent of the problem.
The Combat Human Trafficking program was developed through the collaboration of the Jewish Community Relations Council and Women’s Philanthropy of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. The panel of speakers provided a wide lens of perspectives. Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and CEO of the JCPA, spoke to the Jewish soul. He drew some important reminders from history and biblical texts, bringing home the point that it is our Jewish responsibility to act when we see such injustices in the world.
Rabbi Gutow reminded the audience of the term Ger, a term used for non-Jews who lived in places with predominately Jewish inhabitants. There are strict guidelines on how these groups of people were to be treated. The concept of protecting foreigners living among us remains important today, wherever we live.
Susan Dechovitz, Director of the Human Trafficking Task Force from the Office of the State Attorney, spoke to the specifics of the local problem of sex trafficking. She widened the perspective of many in the audience who thought sex trafficking only happened to foreign women and children. Dechovitz surprised the audience by explaining how American girls fall into the traps of trafficking predators. She noted that predators look for girls between the ages of 12 and14 years old with vulnerabilities. The fact of the matter is that most girls in that age range have some type of vulnerability even in the best of circumstances.
Ivon Mesa of the Community Action and Human Services Department, Coordinated Victims Assistance Program, Miami-Dade County shared with the audience specific programs and resources available through Miami-Dade County. She provided heartbreaking examples of cases including instances of labor and sex trafficking. As Mesa shared, these victims remain fearful for their family members as well as their own lives.
The panelists provided powerful messages, each painting a distinct picture based on his or her own work in combating modern day slavery. However, the central message remained the same throughout the day, the necessity to take action. Those in the audience made verbal and nonverbal commitments to collaborate and take further action. The JCRC of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation is creating a task force to move forward on this issue and has joined local, state and national coalitions. To remain apprised of their activities and advocacy in this and other areas, please “Like” their page at https://www.facebook.com/JCRC.GMJF. Your action and support will help bring light to the darkness inherent in this assault on humanity. Since trafficking in persons is a crime against global society, we must each act to curb these injustices.
Click here for the JCRC’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/JCRC.GMJF
Submitted by Ben Tue Apr 23 2013 18:02:18 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Last week, a bipartisan bill to require background checks for gun purchasers fell just 4 votes short of the 60 needed to pass. But we remain resolved to pass comprehensive gun laws that will make us all safer while respecting the 2nd Amendment.
Less than half of the Senate voting against a policy favored by 90% of the country is where our work begins. We have a national need and a national will that cannot be stymied by an uncompromising few. We are in the beginning of the campaign for the comprehensive overhauls needed to make our country safer by ensuring access to quality mental health care, examining the role of violence in our media, banning military style weapons and ammunition, and keeping them out of the wrong hands.
Thanks to this vote, we now know the minds that need to be changed. Now is the time to make sure that those Senators who voted no hear the voices of their constituents and act accordingly. In the coming weeks, and with your help, we will continue to let Congress know that the organized Jewish community remains united and resolute on the need for comprehensive gun violence legislation.
There will be hurdles in our work for a safer America, but hurdles are meant to be cleared. TAKE ACTION by thanking our friends in the Senate who voted yes on sensible gun reform and let those in the minority know we are disappointed. We must state clearly that we will not give up on this legislation to make our country safer and better protect our children. Click here to reach out to your Senators
Submitted by Ben Tue Apr 23 2013 18:01:58 GMT-0400 (EDT)
On Thursday, April 18 the Associated Students (ASUC) at UC Berkeley passed SB160 calling on the ASUC and the UC Regents to divest from three companies doing business with Israel. We and the JCRC of San Francisco, the Peninusla, Marin, Sonomoa, Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties are proud of the dozens of pro-Israel students, Jewish faculty members and Hillel for their tremendous efforts that fell just short.
The President of the UC Berkeley Student Body has until Wednesday, April 24 to veto this one-sided and harmful bill. What can YOU do?
Email President Connor Landgraf TODAY calling on him to veto the bill. We have only a small window of opportunity to urge him to veto the bill, so now is the time to act and spread the word - we cannot be complacent! Let President Landgraf know that the passage of Bill SB160 is alienating and hateful. Feel free to share any personal connection you may have to Cal, the Jewish community and Israel. Please refrain from using any incendiary or offensive language that may detract from this important cause.
Submitted by Ben Tue Apr 23 2013 18:01:42 GMT-0400 (EDT)
The Farm Bill is a broad piece of legislation that includes funding for a range of programs from farm subsidies to biofuel to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps). Current programs have been funded through the end of September, but reauthorization of the bill has been delayed by more than a year of negotiations. Committee work on a full reauthorization begins this month.
In the Senate, many parts of the bill are anticipated to look similar to last year’s, including an approximate $4 billion cut to SNAP over the next ten years. This cut comes from targeting a program called “Heat and Eat” , which especially affects benefits for seniors and people with disabilities. From last year’s estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, the $4 billion cut to SNAP in the original Senate bill would result in cuts to benefits for 500,000 households by approximately $90 a month. In the House, last year’s bill went further with a $16 billion cut to SNAP, including cuts to Heat and Eat, categorical eligibility, and other important nutrition programs.
Anti-hunger advocates, including the JCPA, are taking action this week and reaching out to Congressional offices, urging them to draft and support a Farm Bill that protects and strengthens SNAP.
Submitted by Ben Tue Apr 23 2013 18:01:17 GMT-0400 (EDT)
The JCPA expresses its deep sadness for the victims of yesterday's unthinkable attack and extends our support to all the people of Boston. We deplore the frightening reality that such a devastating event has terrorized the people of that great city.
It is our deepest wish that the city and the Jewish community find the peace and shelimut they deserve. We pray for their speedy recovery and applaud their strength.
We extend our gratitude to the first responders and all those who rushed to the scene to help the injured. We place our trust in the federal, state and local authorities who will bring the perpetrator(s) of this heinous act to justice, as we remain ever mindful of the balance of security and civil liberties.
Submitted by Ben Tue Apr 23 2013 18:00:43 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Last week, the Senate voted 68-31 to begin debate on new gun violence legislation. What that legislation will ultimately look like, however, remains very uncertain as amendments and alternatives continue to be proposed that could significantly water down the final product. What is certain, however, is that in order to prevent future tragedies, we need swift and comprehensive action. That is why 23 national Jewish organizations sent a letter to all 100 Senators urging them to act quickly and pass a comprehensive bill. The letter, organized by the JCPA, offered policy proposals reflective of the resolution adopted at the Plenum last month, including access to quality mental health care, bans on certain types of weapons and ammunition, universal background checks, and an examination of the role of violence in the media.
In a statement, JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow said, “There is no single solution to our country’s grave problem with gun violence. And with 33 lives lost to gun violence every day, every proposal that can save lives must be considered and given a vote. Delay is not a tactic that will make anybody safer.”
Submitted by Ben Tue Apr 23 2013 18:00:26 GMT-0400 (EDT)
The Israel Action Network, a project of The Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with the JCPA, is proud to debut a new multi-step community relations and Israel advocacy training program known as the Community Impact Partnership (CIP).
Together with partner communities, the CIP will train a cadre of skilled pro-Israel advocates in cities across America where anti-Israel activism and support for the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has intensified.
Each IAN-led CIP program consists of three separate training sessions where participants are instructed by IAN staff and community relations professionals on how to best develop and implement the skills necessary to build relationships with key groups outside of the Jewish community.
Building constructive coalitions with representatives such as campus administrators, civil officials and ethnic and religious leadership is crucial when responding to anti-Israel measures. These are the groups that are often targeted by those who seek to erode the legitimacy of the Jewish state. The ability to build relationships around issues of common cause, as well as providing good information, has proven to be the most effective tool in countering these efforts.
Submitted by Ben Tue Apr 09 2013 17:46:27 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Melanie Nelkin and Martina Knee, Human Rights Portfolio Chairs of the JCPA’s Israel, World Jewry and International Human Rights Task Force, and Gerri Miller, director of the SF Bay Area Darfur Coalition, have written an op-ed on the ongoing challenges in Sudan for Genocide Prevention and Awareness Month.
Genocide Prevention, Awareness Month
BY MELANIE NELKIN, GERRI MILLER AND MARTINA KNEE / AJT //
April is Genocide Prevention and Awareness month in Georgia and an opportunity for activists, from our state to California, to raise their collective voices about the 10 years of genocidal conflict in Darfur, Sudan. Today, the bridge to peace is still barely under construction.
We as Jews appreciate President Obama’s speech in Israel two weeks ago which connected Passover, freedom, peace and security. But we also strongly and respectfully urge the President to provide the same level of support and action for the people of Sudan, who are struggling to survive and claim their own freedom from a brutal regime.
We note that the President said:
“[Passover] is a story about finding freedom in your own land…[The story of the Exodus] spoke to a yearning within every human being for a home…”
With respect to security, he stated:
“I think about children…the same age as my daughters, who went to bed…fearful that a rocket would land in their bedroom simply because of who they are and where they live…”
And regarding tyranny, he said:
“[T]he world cannot tolerate an organization that murders innocent civilians…and supports the massacre of men, women and children in Syria…America will…insist that the Syrian people have the right to be freed from…a dictator who would rather kill his own people than relinquish power.”
As we approach Yom HaShoah, we recall the President spoke similar words about Darfur and other current genocides in each “Days of Remembrance” speech during his first term, but he did so without taking actions to back them up. We hope when the President reminds the nation in 2013 that remembrance alone is not enough, he also instructs his administration to create and implement a comprehensive new foreign policy toward Sudan.
The Obama administration’s current Sudan policy – which amounts to appeasement – has contributed to a resumption of regular aerial bombing of Darfur and the geographic expansion of mass atrocities to additional areas.
What the President should do is appoint a Special Envoy reporting directly and only to him to carry the new, more effective policy not only to Sudan, but globally, so that Sudan cannot continue killing its civilians without consequences. We ask specifically that:
The U.S. accept that the Government of Sudan has never honored an agreement and, for this reason, stop supporting that government; the U.S. should instead help guide the Sudanese to a democratic transformation, as there cannot be peace with an oppressive, authoritarian government trying to stay in power at all costs;
The new policy consider Sudan as a whole, rather than a series of separate conflicts, with the root cause of each conflict being the abusive government;
All peace negotiations include all of the rebel movements and unarmed opposition as well as civil society in multiple regions, particularly women;
The U.S. strengthen (and enforce) sanctions against Sudan and encourage the international community to do the same, including financial sanctions and travel bans on the perpetrators (as the ruling party historically has responded to pressure, not collaboration);
The U.S. build an international coalition to isolate the current ruling party and oppose economic conferences such as that planned in Doha, as under the current regime, any proceeds would support only the government’s killing of civilians;
The U.S. actively lead the international community in facilitating arrest of those for whom the ICC has issued arrest warrants; and
U.S. aid resources support strengthening the capacity of the marginalized leaders and civil society in Sudan which could lead the country to democracy.
Credible reports indicate that Sudan is hosting Mali jihadists in Darfur. Meanwhile, the alliance between Iran and Sudan continues to strengthen; Iranian weapons, including some for Hamas and Hezbollah, are made in Sudan.
We urge a revised U.S. policy as the current regime in Sudan, as a supporter of terrorists, is also a threat to security in the region, in Israel, and to the national security of the United States.
Many challenges faced by the Jewish people are common to all who struggle against brutality and tyranny and for justice, dignity and freedom. We are all Jews, Palestinians and Syrians, and we are all Sudanese as well – during Passover, on Yom HaShoah, and every day.
We prayed at our seders that peace, freedom and security in Sudan become an immediate priority of the President’s second term. As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, we honor all those who perished and those who saved others.
We also recall President Obama’s statement six years ago, already a part of his legacy, that the Darfur genocide “is a stain on our souls.” We urge the President that by Yom HaShoah next year, his legacy also will include having taken effective action to help end genocide in Sudan and advance the reality of peace, freedom and security for the Sudanese.
Melanie Nelkin is the Chair of The Georgia Coalition to Prevent Genocide (GC2PG). Gerri Miller is Founder and Coordinator of Dear Sudan, Love Marin and a director of the SF Bay Area Darfur Coalition (SFBADC). Martina Knee is also a director of the SFBADC. You can become a friend of these organizations on Facebook to participate in activism and advocacy at facebook.com/DarfurSF and facebook.com/pages/Georgia-Coalition-to-Prevent-Genocide.
The views expressed in this op-ed are those of the authors and not necessarily of the JCPA. Originally posted in the Atlanta Jewish Times.
Submitted by Ben Tue Apr 09 2013 17:45:18 GMT-0400 (EDT)
At the start of Passover this year, the JCPA and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger once again kicked off the annual Hunger Seder mobilization, tying the Passover message of freedom to the ongoing need to end hunger. This included not only a national Hunger Seder in the Capitol, but many local seders around the country. The Cleveland CRC, as part of the JCPA's Confronting Poverty initiative, hosted a seder for interfaith leadership to highlight the importance of fighting hunger in America. The seder was hosted by Nueva Luz Urban Resource Center and attended by 40 community leaders. Nueva Luz is a local, faith-based organization challenging the root causes of systemic poverty among Latino and other underserved individuals through holistic and culturally competent service and community building. Dayan Gross, director of the Cleveland CRC, said in a statement that “in Cleveland, as around the country, Hunger Seders have been an invaluable tool to bring together hunger advocates and other leaders to build awareness and support an end to hunger in America. These seders are not just about outreach, but have provided the impetus for hard advocacy initiatives and volunteer feeding programs to increase our nutrition safety net.”
Submitted by Ben Tue Apr 09 2013 17:43:35 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Missed Plenum? No problem. Our new website has been updated with pictures, videos, and recaps from the last month’s gathering of Jewish community professionals, lay leaders and national political leaders. Watch Israeli Ambassador Oren and Jeffrey Goldberg discuss the changing role of the Jewish community in the US-Israel relationship, listen to Rabbi Gutow’s address about the Jewish community as a family of friends, or get an update on the ongoing debate over immigration from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The Plenum is always an exciting few days where leaders and activists gather to discuss the issues of the day and plan community action. But the message does not end when Plenum does. Repairing the world through Jewish activism is an ongoing project. Stay involved and up to date.
Submitted by Ben Thu Apr 04 2013 12:23:25 GMT-0400 (EDT)
With an average of 33 Americans being killed by guns every day, comprehensive action on gun violence is needed to make our country safer. But the proposals currently making their way through the Senate face a very uncertain fate. The package approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee is almost certain to be filibustered, and already, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said that the ban on assault weapons will not be included, but can be offered as an amendment – an extra hurdle that will make its adoption unlikely. Now, an alternative bill that excludes background checks or bans on military style weapons and high capacity ammunition is being written by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). These threats to gun violence legislation mean it is more important than ever to demonstrate our support for *comprehensive* action to end gun violence
That was the message last week at the White House where President Obama, surrounded by mothers of children killed by firearms, spoke powerfully about the need for meaningful gun violence prevention legislation. The President challenged us all to remember the victims and their families, to remember the hurt and heartbreak that propelled this conversation to the political forefront, and remember the 3075 people killed by guns since Newtown.
That is why the JCPA has launched a campaign to end gun violence -- Zichronam Livracha, “for their memory as a blessing”. We will continue to remember those that were lost from gun violence. However, just remembering them is not enough; it is our responsibility to make meaningful change to prevent these types of tragedies. At the White House event last week, JCPA Washington Director Jared Feldman spoke with leading advocates on gun violence legislation on political strategy and some of the unresolved policy issues. Negotiations are at an uncertain point. We must show the Senate that there is a broad constituency demanding action on this issue. To that end, if you haven’t already, we urge you to write to your Senators in support of a comprehensive approach to prevent gun violence and share the petition with others. So far, thousands have written, and we hope to double that by the time the Senate begins debate on a package of legislation on April 8th.
Our campaign is about translating loss into the action, and now is the time to act.
Submitted by Ben Thu Apr 04 2013 12:22:51 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Every spring, Jews celebrate the holiday of Passover, declaring at our Seders: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” Although in our modern world this invitation is more symbolic than literal, this strong anti-hunger message makes Passover an ideal time to promote food security for all Americans. On March 20th at the Capitol Visitors Center, the JCPA sponsored, with MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the National Hunger Seder. The Seder brings together Members of Congress, Administration officials, interfaith and anti-hunger leaders, and women and children affected by hunger to engage one another with readings and reflections that underscore our country’s moral imperative to ensure that no one goes hungry.
At the Seder we come together to celebrate freedom from oppression. But how can we celebrate when so many people are still oppressed by the shackles of daily hunger? The Hunger Seder translates Passover’s message of freedom and renewal into an opportunity to advocate for awareness of the food insecurity in our communities, and the safety nets available for those in need. We are building strength for a powerful anti-hunger movement in the Jewish community and beyond
For the last four years more than 50 communities across the country have held their own Hunger Seders, educating their neighbors about the prevalence of food insecurity, deepening their engagement in anti-hunger work, and advocating to protect nutrition programs in the federal budget. This year, dozens of cities and thousands of individuals representing a broad spectrum of faith communities will come together at local Hunger Seders to advocate protecting the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
Submitted by Ben Thu Apr 04 2013 12:22:23 GMT-0400 (EDT)
In his speech on the Senate floor last week, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse called attention to voices from faith groups who have spoken out about the need for action on climate change. The Senator stated, "Faith groups throughout America are acting on their sense of spirit, justice, and stewardship, and are mobilizing locally to combat and prepare for the effects of climate change." He quoted from COEJL and JCPA’s letter to the Bicameral Taskforce on Climate Change, stating, “the need to transform the world’s energy economy while addressing global climate change is not only a religious and moral imperative; it is a strategy for security and survival.” He also mentioned the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island’s efforts to reduce energy use by 14%. Click here for video and text of the floor speech
Submitted by Ben Tue Mar 19 2013 18:07:12 GMT-0400 (EDT)
The annual JCPA Plenum wrapped up last week with representatives from the JCPA’s 125 Jewish community relations councils and 15 national member agencies meeting with Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill to discuss guns, the budget, Iran, and immigration reform. The meetings in Congressional offices and at the JCPA reception came at the conclusion of a three-day symposium where Jewish community leaders met with national experts and policy makers to discuss these issues and other Jewish community priorities.
Submitted by Ben Tue Mar 19 2013 18:06:50 GMT-0400 (EDT)
The Senate is preparing to consider a package of gun violence bills recently approved by the Judiciary committee, including a bill on gun trafficking, universal background checks, a measure to increase school safety, and a ban on assault weapons. Each of these is important to the comprehensive approach we have called for, but already one of these pieces – the assault weapons ban – is facing serious challenges. Sen. Diane Feinstein (CA), the assault weapon ban’s sponsor, has said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) will only allow the bill as an amendment to the gun violence package that will be sent to the floor next month. This is an extra hurdle that will make the ban less likely to pass and weaken the comprehensive approach we have called for. In speaking to the JCPA Plenum last week, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT) warned of the uphill battle comprehensive gun violence legislation will face and encouraged each of us to take the lead in building support for this legislation in our states. Join us and take action by encouraging your Senators to support the assault weapons ban, “like” us on Facebook to help spread support and information on gun violence, and if you’re on Twitter, send a message to @SenatorReid to ask for a comprehensive #VoteOnGuns.
Submitted by Ben Tue Mar 19 2013 18:06:23 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Last Sunday, March 17, marked the 21st anniversary of the terrorist bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Among the 29 people killed in the attack, widely believed to be the responsibility of Hezbollah, was Deputy Chief of Mission David Ben Raphael. Thus far, no one has been brought to justice. Nor has anyone been brought to justice for the attack that took place two years later in Buenos Aires on the AMIA Jewish community center building that resulted in 85 deaths. The JCPA and others have strongly condemned a so-called “truth commission” recently established by Argentina and Iran, and Interpol is not dropping its arrest warrants for Iranian officials wanted in connection with this atrocity.
You are encouraged to communicate with the Argentinian embassy in Washington, DC and local consulates to urge that authorities continue to investigate both of these terrorist attacks in an effort to bring all the perpetrators to justice.
Submitted by Ben Wed Mar 13 2013 13:52:02 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Speaking to the entire delegation of the JCPA Plenum, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano laid out a vision of immigration reform that includes changes to our visa system, employment verification, and a process of fairly integrating those who are already here. In a surprise video appearance, the Secretary was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden, who celebrated his decades-long friendship with the JCPA based on our shared values.
In her speech to representatives of the JCPA’s 125 Jewish community relations councils and 14 national member agencies, Secretary Napolitano identified three areas for “nonpartisan” reform: increase the number of visas to make it easier to come here legally, expand an employment verification system to “deal with the demand of illegal labor as we also deal with the supply,” and deal fairly with those who are here “so they can get right with the law.” In addition to increased border enforcement, the Secretary noted the security value of biometric identification.
“We need to give [undocumented immigrants] a way back and make them right with law,” Napolitano said to applause from the delegates. While noting that technological advancements and a record number of “boots on the ground” have resulted in a 40-year low of illegal immigration attempts, Secretary Napolitano said “the system does not work the way it was intended.”
Submitted by Ben Wed Mar 13 2013 13:50:47 GMT-0400 (EDT)
To open the second day of the JCPA Plenum, JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow sat down with Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby and Reverend Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojouners, a national Christian organization for a conversation on the faith community’s shared commitments to social justice and how that should inform our advocacy. “We do it because God tells us to,” said Rabbi Gutow. This idea was embraced by Rev. Wallis, who said that unlike just another politico, we should make theology and faith central components of our work. Sr. Simone agreed that we should encourage a values conversation, but warned against speaking for others, recommending an individual focus instead. All agreed that the Prophets and Hebrew scriptures were central to the religious obligation for social justice.
These biblical teachings, particularly from the Prophets, inspired all three leaders to connect with the poor and break down the economic lines that Rev. Wallis said “divide our society.” Both Rabbi Gutow and Sr. Simone spoke of their experiences with the Food Stamp Challenge as lessons in empathy. Rabbi Gutow noted that the many rabbis and cantors who took this year’s Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge came to understand that living with SNAP is not what anybody wants, but rather is a “forced situation.” “The Food Stamp Challenge is letting our hearts be broken by the reality we’re facing,” said Sr. Simone. “Without empathy, we turn judgmental.”
Looking towards solutions, all three agreed on the need for a larger role for government, with Sister Simone calling it “the question of our time.” Rev. Wallis said our safety nets like SNAP (food stamps) are important, but are only for survival when what we need is opportunity. He contrasted the shared prosperity of the post-WWII period with the shift during the 1980s that has left working families unable to support their children. Sr. Simone agreed, noting that in order to have the same buying power as in the 1970s, the minimum wage would need to be raised to $12.50.The conversation concluded with a discussion of the biblical notion of justice – tzedakah – making things right again; fixing something that is broken, in this case, our treatment of the poor.
Submitted by Ben Wed Mar 13 2013 13:49:48 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Representatives of the JCPA’s 125 Jewish communities and 14 national member agencies voted to welcome Jewish Women International as a member of the JCPA.
“As the representative body of the Jewish community, we are truly proud to now count JWI as a member,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “JWI has already become a vocal champion for a secure and peaceful Israel and the rights of women and minorities everywhere. We are excited to welcome their strong moral voice in our collective effort to repair the world through Jewish activism.”
The JCPA Plenum delegates also voted to approve two new policy resolutions. The first expanded upon previous resolutions on access to firearms and violence in the media to call for a comprehensive approach to gun violence. The resolution, sponsored by multiple agencies and nine communities in Connecticut, Arizona, and Colorado calls for limiting access to the most dangerous weapons and ammunition, waiting periods, volume sales restrictions, background checks, diligent enforcement of regulations, efforts to improve access to mental health services, and a conversation about violence in media. The second resolution creates new policy for the JCPA in support of measures that strengthen and expand current civil rights law aimed at preventing pay discrimination.
Submitted by Ben Wed Mar 13 2013 13:47:03 GMT-0400 (EDT)
At the conclusion of the 2013 JCPA Plenum’s first day, we honored some of those in our community who make our work possible and inspire us to go further. First, Michael Newmark introduced Judith Lichtman, this year’s recipient of the Albert D. Chernin Award. Named for the JCPA’s Executive Vice Chair Emeritus, the Chernin Award is given to Jewish leaders whose life work best exemplifies the social justice imperatives of Judaism, Jewish history, and the protection of the Bill of Rights. Lichtman, a leading women and children’s activist for decades, stepped down as president of the National Partnership for Women & Families in 2004. She credited her Jewish heritage with instilling in her the responsibility to leave the Earth a better place than we found it. In accepting the award, Lichtman proudly pointed to the four generations of family that were with her, and her hope that we pass on the values of tzedakah and tikkun olam.
Also honored were San Francisco’s David Steirman and Dallas’s Marc Stanley who received the Tikkun Olam Award for their commitment and service to the JCPA, Jewish community, and beyond David has been a prominent figure on both coasts where he has served on the boards of many organizations in the Jewish community. He currently is the Board Chair of UpStart Bay Area, Board President of the North Peninsula Jewish Campus, and immediate past Board Chair of the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA). He serves as an officer of the JCPA, Moldaw Residences and the Jewish Senior Living Group and is a board member of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Home & Senior Living Foundation. David previously served as President of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma counties, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Bureau of Jewish Education. He also previously served on the boards of the TKCJL (Palo Alto based Taube-Koret Campus for Jewish Life) and Peninsula Sinai Congregation.
Marc is a national Jewish leader who currently serves as Chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council and as Co-Chair of the Foundation for Jewish Culture. In addition, Marc is an officer of the JCPA, and was appointed by President Obama to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Council in June 2011. He was also appointed by Governor Ann Richards to serve as Chairman of the Texas Public Finance Authority. In his hometown of Dallas, Marc serves as a Vice-Chair of the Legacy Senior Living Communities and sits on the Executive Committee of the Dallas JCRC. In his professional life, Marc is a trial lawyer and has also served as President of the Dallas Trial Lawyers Association and the Texas Trial Lawyer Association. As Chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Marc has also blogged extensively about Jewish and political issues on the Huffington Post and other forums
Submitted by Ben Wed Mar 13 2013 13:46:06 GMT-0400 (EDT)
As the largest annual gathering of Jewish community relations professionals in the country, the JCPA Plenum hosted a series of forums and workshops to discuss best methods of community action and prepare for the challenges to come. On Sunday, this included a discussion ranging from reframing the Zionist narrative, to defending Israel here and abroad, to grassroots activism on human rights, to the best uses of social media as an organizing tool.
How individual Jewish communities can respond to the movement to delegitimize Israel through boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) was the main focus of a discussion that centered on strategic and appropriate responses. "We need to be careful not to add to the fire, but to provide our own grass roots with 'stuff to do'" said Sara Saber-Freedman of Canada's CIJA. Saber-Freedman and co-panelists David Dabscheck of the JCPA/JFNA Israel Action Network and David Prystowsky highlighted appropriate means such as "buycotting," a counter-protest measure that involves consumers actually buying products that BDS proponents have targeted for boycott.
In a concurrent workshop, “Israel Advocacy with Interfaith and Intergroup Partners,” panelists Batya Abramson-Goldstein from St. Louis, Jeremy Burton from Boston, and Rabbi Yehiel Poupko from Chicago stressed the importance of sharing and spreading support for Israel with other civil society partners. Coalition building strategies need to be tailored in order to most effectively partner with other community agencies. Burton described the success and understanding an Israel mission for interfaith leaders can bring.
These were just a few highlights of the first day. For updates on each session as the Plenum continues, follow the tweets from participants with #JCPAplenum.
Submitted by Ben Wed Mar 13 2013 13:44:52 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren discussed President Obama’s upcoming trip to Israel and the importance of strong bonds between the two counties in an interview-style conversation at the opening plenary of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ annual Plenum.
Noting that not many other Presidents have visited Israel, Ambassador Oren said that doing so is a significant gesture, particularly as the first overseas trip of President Obama’s second term. With a stalled peace process and the ongoing efforts to isolate the Jewish state, Oren said the most important purpose of the trip is to send a message about the “vibrant and deep relationship” between America and the people of Israel.
While details of the trip remain to be determined, Ambassador Oren announced to the JCPA Plenum delegates that president Obama will in fact lay a wreath at the tomb of Theodore Herzl, founder of modern Zionism. This reinforces reaffirms to the whole Middle East the historical Jewish claim to the land. “Palestinians have an unassailable right to a state of their own,” said Oren. And President Obama’s trip, particularly his stop at Herzl’s grave, will underscore the need for Palestinians to recognize that “reciprocal right of the Jews.”
Submitted by Ben Tue Mar 05 2013 18:36:32 GMT-0500 (EST)
The JCPA represents 125 Jewish communities across the country, providing resources and tools to mobilize individuals and coalitions to take action on the issues most important to us, like Israel, poverty, or immigration. The JCPA Plenum, this March 9-12 in DC, is your chance to discuss these and other topics directly with Members of Congress.
Join hundreds of Jewish community professionals and volunteers to hear from and share your views with Members of Congress on preventing a nuclear armed Iran, support and funding for federal human needs programs, comprehensive immigration reform, and sensible gun violence legislation. At the Plenum, days of workshops, discussion, and forums with some of the leading national experts, policy makers, and activists will explore the issues we care about most. Then on Tuesday you will travel to Capitol Hill for an advocacy day to bring your message to your Member of Congress yourself.
This is your last week to register! Sign up today to join the Plenum advocacy day, including a morning briefing and an afternoon reception where you will be able to meet with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (C)T), Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (GA), Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), Rep. Corrine Brown (FL), Rep. Danny Davis (IL), Rep John Dingell (MI), Rep. Donna Edwards (MD), Rep. Bill Huizenga (MI), Rep. James Lankford (OK), Rep. Tom Lathan (IA), Rep. Bob Latta (OH), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA), Rep. Luke Messer (IN), Rep. John Mica (FL), Rep. Jerry Nadler (NY), Rep. Peter Roskam (IL), Rep. Mike Ross (AR), Rep. Diane Titus (NV), Rep. Maxine Waters (CA), Rep. Randy Weber (TX), Rep. Marc Veasey (TX), and others.
Submitted by Ben Tue Mar 05 2013 18:36:14 GMT-0500 (EST)
Last Friday deep and across the board spending cuts known as the ‘sequester’ went into effect, marking the end of a two-year failed process for Congress and the White House to reach agreement on a long-term deficit reduction plan. As a result, funding for domestic discretionary programs like WIC, education funding, and even beef inspections will be reduced by 5.1 percent. Similarly, defense programs, including foreign military assistance to Israel, will be reduced by 8 percent. Several means-tested entitlement programs, primarily Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and SNAP, would be exempt. In a statement Saturday night, JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow said that allowing the sequester to go into effect was “disappointing and irresponsible.”
Submitted by Ben Tue Mar 05 2013 18:36:04 GMT-0500 (EST)
Last week, the House of Representatives passed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which had been passed by the Senate earlier last month, clearing the way for this important bill to be signed by the President. Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA has reduced the rate of domestic violence by two-thirds, but the Act was allowed to expire last year. The reauthorized VAWA, which passed with broad bipartisan support, thanks in part to the leadership of the National Council of Jewish Women and Jewish Women International, was expanded to include Native Americans and LGBT individuals, who are particularly at risk. In a statement following the vote, JCPA Chair Larry Gold praised the vote to finally reauthorize VAWA, saying, “Recourse to free yourself from domestic abuse is not a privilege.”
Submitted by Ben Tue Feb 26 2013 20:05:15 GMT-0500 (EST)
How does the Jewish community handle deep differences and strive to be one family? How can we learn from each other on complex topics such as same sex relationships?
Join some of our country’s leading Jewish experts and activists at the JCPA Plenum in DC this March 9-12 for this and other important conversations.
The JCPA represents a unique, consensus-driven, partnership of 125 local and 14 national agencies. At the JCPA Plenum in DC, we will host a special panel, “Consensus and Controversy,” using the subject of same sex relationships to explore how we come together as an agency, as a family, with respect for the diversity of viewpoints in the Jewish community.
Professor Amy-Jill Levine, from Vanderbilt University will moderate and participate in a conversation along with Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston; Yehuda Neuberger, Chair of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Register for the plenum today to take part in this special and important conversation.
The JCPA Plenum is your unique chance to meet with fellow Jewish community leaders, policy experts, and national policymakers to discuss the challenges facing our communities and the role each of us can play. Be inspired, learn, discuss, and act. Other topics this year include comprehensive gun legislation, the Jewish commitment to social justice, interfaith work nationally and internationally, tumult in the Middle East, energy, hunger and poverty, and Israel’s domestic issues.
Submitted by Ben Tue Feb 26 2013 20:04:43 GMT-0500 (EST)
For the fifth year in a row, thousands of individuals in dozens of communities will participate in Hunger Seders – a variation on the Passover meal and its message of liberation -- to ensure no person in America goes hungry. This year, the Hunger Seders will educate and empower participants to take action towards the long-term goal of ending hunger in the United States by highlighting the immediate need to protect full funding for WIC, a nutrition program for women, infants and children. This critical moment in our history when severe budget cuts to our social safety net are likely, is an opportunity to evaluate the programs that assist hungry Americans and find ways to best serve those struggling each day with poverty and hunger.
Submitted by Ben Tue Feb 26 2013 20:04:26 GMT-0500 (EST)
The Israel Action Network, an initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with the JCPA, visited upstate New York earlier this month to deliver strategic support and capacity building programming to combat the delegitimization of Israel in Syracuse and Rochester.
On Feb. 12, IAN’s Director of Community Strategy, Noam Gilboord, addressed the Jewish Federation of Central New York in Syracuse. He met with President-CEO Linda Alexander to examine priority issues, as well as the Young Leadership Committee to discuss strategic communications in regards to the delegitimization of Israel. Gilboord walked participants through the challenges and opportunities in Israel advocacy, exploring messages to engage target audiences. He provided similar training to the Federation’s lay leadership and its Community Relations Committee as well.
Submitted by Ben Thu Feb 21 2013 17:57:34 GMT-0500 (EST)
Register for the JCPA Plenum in DC this March 9-12 to join Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren and The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg for a conversation on Israel’s search for peace and security in a volatile Middle East.
***Early Bird and Hotel Registration have been extended to February 22! Register today!***
Following last month’s elections with a new constellation of political parties and leaders in the Knesset, the next Israeli government will face a stalled peace process, unprecedented domestic challenges, and uncertainty on the borders, especially from the increasingly unstable Syria and a Muslim Brotherhood-led regime in Egypt. Of course, Iran’s nuclear program continues to be front and center in the minds of officials in Jerusalem and Washington, DC. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, himself an expert on Middle East history, will provide context, insight, and analysis in a unique conversation with the award winning journalist Jeffrey Goldberg.
Goldberg, whose access to the top levels of US and Israeli government has made him a leading Jewish and Middle East reporter and analyst, will interview Oren before a crowd of Jewish community professionals and volunteer leadership from across the country. This program is especially timely as it takes place just days before President Obama’s scheduled trip to Israel and the region.
Do not miss out on this incredible opportunity to hear from the sharpest and most informed minds on Middle East issues affecting Israel, the United States and the international community. Register for the Plenum today!
The JCPA Plenum is your unique chance to meet with fellow Jewish community leaders, policy experts, and national policymakers to discuss the challenges facing our communities and the role each of us can play. Be inspired, learn, discuss, and act. Join with colleagues and experts for in-depth conversation on comprehensive gun legislation, the Jewish commitment to social justice, interfaith work nationally and internationally, tumult in the Middle East, energy, hunger and poverty, and Israel’s domestic issues.
Submitted by Ben Thu Feb 21 2013 17:56:59 GMT-0500 (EST)
Since its original passage in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has reduced the rate of domestic violence by 50% by helping state and local authorities assist victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. However, VAWA was allowed to expire last year, meaning these resources are no longer available to states and communities. Fortunately, the Senate was able to take bipartisan action last week, passing the reauthorization of VAWA by an overwhelming vote of 78-22. The reauthorized VAWA passed by the Senate expands these programs to communities not previously covered under VAWA, including LGBT victims, immigrant women, Native American women, and college students.
It is now up to the House of Representatives to act. Take action today to protect women from violence by urging your Representative to support VAWA!
Submitted by Ben Thu Feb 21 2013 17:56:39 GMT-0500 (EST)
Geri Palast, the Managing Director of the Israel Action Network, a project of The Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with the JCPA, is currently leading a progressive women leaders’ mission to Israel along with the National Council of Jewish Women, JCPA member agency. Her first blog post about the trip was posted yesterday:
“Today marks a milestone for IAN as I prepare to depart on our first progressive women leaders’ mission to Israel. It’s one I have long anticipated as IAN’s managing director and I’m delighted to partner with the National Council for Jewish Women to lead what is sure to be a memorable, informative and eye opening look at the narrative of Israel and its citizens.
This eight day trip will provide these leaders an opportunity to see Israel and her neighbors through a gender-specific lens. Our travels will engage the mind, heart, soul and body while exploring local communities, meeting government leaders and discussing key issues that concern Israelis and their neighbors….”
Submitted by Ben Tue Feb 12 2013 18:08:30 GMT-0500 (EST)
The future of Zionism starts March 9-12 in Washington, DC at the JCPA Plenum.
Zionism is the idea and the movement that seeks to establish a nation-state of the Jewish people where Jews can live freely in our historic homeland. With the culminating creation of the democratic Jewish state of Israel over 60 years ago, how does Zionism still apply? What does it mean? In the 21st century, we, as American Jewish leaders, need to explore how to better understand, articulate and make relevant Zionism in the context of an embodied and complex democratic nation.
At the JCPA’s 2013 Plenum, Gil Troy of McGill University, Rachel Lerner of J Street, and Rabbi Doug Kahn of the San Francisco JCRC will engage us in a conversation, moderated by IAN Managing Director Geri Palast, on themes at the core of this discourse. What is the essence of Zionism? What has been lost in our discourse about Zionism? What needs to be regained, reframed and utilized today?
The JCPA Plenum is your unique chance to meet with fellow Jewish community leaders, policy experts, and national policymakers to discuss the challenges facing our communities and the role each of us can play. Be inspired, learn, discuss, and act. Join colleagues and experts for in-depth conversation on gun legislation, the Jewish commitment to social justice, interfaith work nationally and internationally, tumult in the Middle East, energy, hunger and poverty, Israel’s domestic issues, and many other important topics.
The deadline for rooms in the hotel has been extended until February 18. Register today!
Submitted by Ben Tue Feb 12 2013 18:07:59 GMT-0500 (EST)
Balancing countering the message of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement and issues of academic freedom and free speech are inherently challenging. Last week at Brooklyn College was a case in point. The Israel Action Network learned that there was an upcoming event “sponsored” by the Political Science Department which raised concerned among Jewish students, elected officials, Jewish and non-Jewish, as well as college faculty and administration. The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, with strategic assistance from IAN, worked with the Jewish students led by Hillel to: 1) condemn the message of BDS as a destructive, one-sided view of the conflict that undermines rather than moves the parties to a negotiated two-state solution; 2) clarify the college sponsorship policy; and 3) ensure that there would be future programming that provides alternative points of view on the problems confronting Israel and the Palestinians. Further, in preparation for the event, JCRC-NY worked with the students on messaging and materials, including buttons that read, “Support Peace, Support Israel.”
Submitted by Ben Tue Feb 12 2013 15:11:12 GMT-0500 (EST)
Thank you and yasher koach for the Faiths Calling effort last Monday. Over 10,000 people called their Members of Congress, flooding the phone lines and letting a loud, clear voice for gun safety be heard in Washington.
And Washington is listening! While we were calling Congress on Monday, President Obama travelled to Minneapolis to make the case there for smart legislation that can curb gun violence. Standing with law enforcement, the President touted the city’s gun laws that brought gun related injuries among youth down from 159 in 2005 to 94 in 2011.
Also last week, a group of Representatives announced their proposals, and it was reported that a bipartisan Senate group of NRA members and gun safety advocates are negotiating a measure which would require more background checks for gun sales.
This is all very encouraging, but we are far from done. An assault weapon ban is still unlikely to pass without more support. Just as no one proposal will solve gun violence, omitting smart proposals – like a ban on dangerous military-style weapons – will leave reform incomplete.
So what can you do?
Keep up the pressure! Encourage friends, family, and colleagues to write their Senators in support of an assault weapons ban and keep tweet at Senate leadership to #VoteOnGuns. This week, we’re tweeting at Majority Leader Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (@McConnellPress).
Sample tweets for you to use:
- America loses 30,000 lives to guns each year! Hold a #VoteOnGuns today to make America safer.
- Universal background checks could keep guns away from America’s schools and streets. #VoteOnGuns today!
Submitted by Ben Wed Feb 06 2013 12:08:23 GMT-0500 (EST)
This March 9-12, join us in Washington, DC for the JCPA Plenum to discuss the role of the Jewish community in the issues of the day.
Our work on issues like the federal budget and healthcare is inspired by our faith and religious teachings. That faith and commitment to humanity is shared by many, which has meant a powerful network of allies across the country. At the Plenum, some of our country’s most important faith leaders will come together for a discussion on how faith inspires our work and how these partnerships can produce real results.
JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow will sit down with Sister Simone Campbell, the Executive Director of NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby and Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners, a national Christian organization celebrating 40 years of mobilizing people of faith on racial and social justice, life and peace, and environmental stewardship.
Last summer, Sister Simone gained fame for her “Nuns on the Bus” tour which traveled the country preaching a faithful federal budget. Jim Wallis recently served on the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and currently serves as the chair of the Global Agenda Council on Faith for the World Economic Forum.
Join fellow Jewish community leaders and national policy experts in DC this March 9-12 for this discussion and many others on how we as Jewish leaders can build the partnerships and act to protect the vulnerable, care for our environment, defend Israel and more.
Submitted by Ben Wed Feb 06 2013 12:08:01 GMT-0500 (EST)
Last week, in coordination with the start of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s first hearing on changes to our gun laws, the JCPA launched a Twitter campaign urging the Senate to #VoteOnGuns. While last week’s hearing was an encouraging sign, an actual vote on the comprehensive approach we all have called for is uncertain. In particular, we are concerned about the inclusion of a ban on military-style weapons. Our work continues and another hearing has been scheduled for February 12. Join us and a coalition of other national organizations to tweet at Senators Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) and Chuck Grassley (@ChuckGrassley), Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and urge them to ensure a comprehensive #VoteonGuns.
There are other ways to stay involved as well. We have set up a page for you to e-mail your Senators with the click of a button. There, you can ask them to support Senator Dianne Feinstein’s bill to end access to military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines and Senator Frank Lautenberg’s bill to ban high capacity ammunition magazines holding more than ten rounds.
Submitted by Ben Wed Feb 06 2013 12:07:44 GMT-0500 (EST)
Last week’s s report by the “fact finding” mission on Israeli settlements by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adds another entry to this body’s unhelpful and unproductive record. In its report, the UNHRC urged governments and private corporations across the world to consider economic and political sanctions against Israel over the construction of settlements, and represents the first time such a call has emanated from the United Nations.
Leaving aside the fact that this body has long counted representatives of some of the world’s worst regimes as members in good standing, and has consistently subjected Israel to one-sided treatment, this report is disturbing in many other ways.
Most significantly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, it will have no effect on the international community’s goal of advancing a two states for two people’s solution to the conflict. On the contrary, it will only continue to poison the atmosphere between the two sides, and will make any effort to restart direct negotiations much more difficult.
Submitted by Ben Tue Jan 22 2013 18:29:58 GMT-0500 (EST)
Last week was a momentous week in the campaign to end gun violence. President Obama announced a package of 23 executive actions and a series of legislative proposals that he is asking Congress to act on. Together these measures, which include universal background checks and bans on certain types of weapons and attachments would limit the quantity and lethality of guns in our country as well as keep them out of the wrong hands.
Last Saturday was Gun Appreciation Day around the country. The JCPA is asking that you help us show appreciation for an end to gun violence instead. Share the petition and encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to “like” our Facebook page. Congress’s work has just begun, so it is more important than ever to demonstrate national resolve for action.
To that end, the JCPA also encourages you to take part in the February 4th Faiths Calling call-in day to Congress. Sponsored by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, this project is a way of showing the faith community’s unity and commitment to preventing gun violence.
Submitted by Ben Tue Jan 22 2013 18:29:35 GMT-0500 (EST)
On Monday afternoon, Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term as our country’s 44th president, and the JCPA was there to commemorate the occasion. The public swearing-in was held on the steps of the Capitol before a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people who viewed the ceremony from the National Mall. The President used his address to demonstrate his commitment to priorities like reforming the U.S. immigration system, ensuring that every American has access to high-quality education and other pathways to prosperity, alleviating the scourge of poverty and discrimination, and embracing civility in our public discourse. President Obama placed his vision for his next term and in the context of our founding ideals in Declaration of Independence through the civil war and onto our country’s struggle to expand civil rights and equality. Throughout the weekend, JCPA leaders continued our conversations with key policymakers in our effort to build effective coalitions to pursue justice. JCPA’s Washington Director Jared Feldman and Israel Action Network Managing Director Geri Palast met with Vice President Biden, outgoing Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Nepolitano and key members of Congress.
Submitted by Ben Tue Jan 22 2013 18:29:22 GMT-0500 (EST)
Just one day after President Obama was sworn into office, Israelis went to the polls today, reportedly in high numbers, to cast votes in a national election. While the U.S. and Israeli political systems are quite different, the two countries are bound together by a firm commitment of both societies to freedom for their citizens. Shared democratic values -- along with common strategic interests -- underpin an unbreakable partnership between these two friends and allies. The JCPA looks forward to working with the next government in advancing the goal of peace and security for Israel’s citizens.
Submitted by Ben Wed Jan 16 2013 15:59:21 GMT-0500 (EST)
The Israel Action Network, a project of The Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with the JCPA, has been a leader in the Jewish community focusing on the emerging trends, organizations, individuals and campaigns that intend to challenge Israel’s legitimacy. After major successes defeating delegitimization in 2012, such as in the Mainline Protestant churches, IAN is looking at the likely challenges in 2013. In particular, those seeking to isolate and demonize the state of Israel are likely to target the following areas:
Corporate – Always an active area, we will be on the watch for new attempts to get institutions or social investment indexes and funds to divest from companies doing business with Israel, general boycotts of products made in Israel and efforts to prevent U.S. federal, state and local government as well as private entities from contracting with companies doing business with Israel, notably Veolia.
Campus – Similarly, college campuses will continue to provide a venue of delegitimization activity including Israeli Apartheid Week, attempts to force anti-Israel resolutions through student body governments and several other events tied to Israel’s Independence Day on May 15th.
Communities – In addition to public ad campaigns carrying anti-Israel messages, these groups are specifically aiming to target musicians, artists and other cultural figures who want to perform in Israel.
Constituencies – In the mainline Protestant churches, anti-Israel groups are doubling down on divestment, increasing their boycott efforts and campaigns against U.S. aid to Israel. In the LGBTQ movement, the emerging issue of “pinkwashing,” the allegation that Israel supporters are “using” Israel’s progressive record on LGBTQ rights to divert attention from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is the subject of a conference at CUNY (City University of New York) in April.
Submitted by Ben Wed Jan 16 2013 15:57:03 GMT-0500 (EST)
Vice President Joe Biden’s task force has finalized its recommendations and this week, as early as Wednesday, President Obama will announce the White House’s plans to address gun violence. The proposals will likely include a number of executive actions that will not require Congressional approval (like limits on gun imports, sharing mental health records, and directing research on gun violence) as well as the comprehensive legislative approach that the JCPA has been advocating for with your help. You can read a rundown here.
In advance of those recommendations, today, on what would have been Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 84th birthday, more than fifteen faith organizations, including the JCPA, joined together as part of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence for a press conference to speak out against gun violence in America. Speaking on behalf of the Jewish community was the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Deputy Director Rachel Laser. At the press conference it was announced that twenty-four faith leaders, including the JCPA’s Rabbi Steve Gutow, sent a letter to Members of Congress in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings.
This is an important moment for the campaign to end gun violence and the JCPA will continue to keep you engaged and informed. As Washington prepares to move forward, though, it is important to demonstrate the broad national support for a comprehensive approach to ending gun violence. If you have not yet already, please take a moment to sign the petition at www.EndGunViolenceNow.org.