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