Earlier this year the Senate took the landmark step of passing comprehensive immigration reform with bipartisan support. The House of Representatives, however, has failed to take similar action. And so, since early November, labor, community and religious leaders have been engaged in the “Fast for Families” – a water-only fast in a tent on the National Mall that highlights the moral urgency of immigration reform. Their sacrifice is designed, as prominent faster Eliseo Medina said, to “create a moral force that will convince Congress that the time to act is now.”
The activists have gained national and international attention and inspired thousands across the country to fast for immigration reform. Recently President and First Lady Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, chief of staff Denis McDonough, Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz and Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett have visited the tent to show their support for comprehensive immigration reform.
Among those fasting for immigration reform is JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. On Wednesday, Rabbi Gutow and representatives of other Jewish organizations will join at the Fast for Families tent on the National mall to light the Chanukah candles and speak about the need for immigration reform. If you are in DC on Wednesday, please join us at 5:30pm. And if you cannot make it to the National Mall, you can still support immigration reform with our new immigration toolkit. The toolkit includes legislative updates, messaging, sample op-eds, and more.
As the one year anniversary of the December 14 tragedy in Newtown, CT approaches, and as we reflect on another year of horrendous gun violence in this country, the JCPA is continuing its call to Congress for a #VoteOnGuns. In the year since the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, there has been no new federal legislation to prevent gun violence and keep guns out of the wrong hands.
Join us on December 13th for the Interfaith Call-in Day to Support Gun Violence Prevention. Our lawmakers must hear our moral drumbeat. This easy to use call-in number will connect you to your Member of Congress so you can tell them that in memory of the children of Sandy Hook and the thousands of Americans killed every year by gun violence, we cannot afford inaction any longer. Text “faithscalling” to 877-877 to receive a text message reminder or visit www.faithscalling.org for more information.
Along with this call-in day, help spread the message that smart gun legislation can and does save lives. We have prepared a set of new infographics on our Facebook page for you to share with friends to let them know why you support a #VoteOnGuns.
Four years after Alan Gross was imprisoned in Cuba while supporting the Jewish community there, supporters gathered in front of the White House today to call on the Obama administration to secure his immediate release. Local elected officials and community leaders joined with Alan’s wife Judy for a vigil sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, the JCPA and others to urge the US and Cuban governments to negotiate for Alan’s immediate release and return home. After serving four years of his prison sentence, Alan Gross’s health - and even his life - are in danger. He has lost over 100 pounds, he suffers from chronic pain, and his mental health is deteriorating.
Submitted by Ben Tue Nov 26 2013 18:19:29 GMT-0500 (EST)
An interim agreement reached in Geneva this past weekend between the P5+1 nations and Iran signifies a potential step toward reaching a comprehensive final agreement that would prevent Teheran from having the capability to develop a nuclear weapon. In a statement Saturday night, JCPA President and CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow said “such a final agreement, which should be negotiated in a tight time frame, must not leave Iran in a position to continue its drive for nuclear weapons capability, or to be able to restart it with ease anytime in the future.”
The agreement negotiated with Iran – called the Joint Plan of Action – places limits on Iran’s nuclear program intended to slow the pace of its march toward development of a nuclear weapon. This includes capping enrichment of uranium at 5%, and a depletion of its stockpile of enriched uranium above 5%. It also curbs development of the controversial heavy water reactor at Arak and its potential to develop plutonium, also an ingredient in a nuclear weapon. Most importantly, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency will be given daily access to Iran’s reactors and centrifuges. Iran cannot develop any new centrifuges, the devices used to enrich uranium, and cannot bring online those that have not been activated yet. In exchange, Iran will see sanctions relief amount to about $6-7 billion, accomplished by primarily easing restrictions on Iran’s petrochemical, automotive and international finance industries. According to the White House, the core sanctions architecture that targets Iran’s oil and banking industries – those that have plunged the Islamic Republic into a deep recession over the past year and spearheaded the election of President Hassan Rouhani – remain in place. Such economic pressure has guided Iran to the negotiating table, and must remain in place and fully enforced in order to ensure Iran negotiates in good faith within the next six months, when the interim agreement is set to expire.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many in the U.S. Congress have criticized the deal for undermining the sanctions architecture without forcing a permanent freeze on enrichment activities. In a statement Saturday night, the JCPA highlighted the importance of continuing to maintain strong economic sanctions on Iran until a final agreement is reached that includes strict verification and compliance measures, and ends the menace of a nuclear armed Iran once and for all.
In a joint JCPA-Jewish Federations of North America phone call on Monday, Dr. Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that the agreement is “a major event,” and highlighted the importance of the agreement’s commitment to a final, comprehensive deal. JCPA and the JFNA also held an off-the-record briefing with Obama administration officials late Monday afternoon. We will continue to keep you updated as negotiations continue.
Submitted by Ben Tue Nov 26 2013 18:19:00 GMT-0500 (EST)
It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Albert Chernin, Executive Vice Chairman Emeritus of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (then known as the National Jewish Community Relations Council). Chernin led NJCRAC from 1975-1990. Prior to that, he headed the Jewish Community Relations Councils in Indianapolis and then Philadelphia. He was a tireless activist for individual rights, both here and abroad and he played an important leadership role during the Soviet Jewry movement, marshalling Jewish community and national responses through NJCRAC and co-authoring “A Second Exodus: The American Movement to Free Soviet Jews.” JCPA’s highest annual award, which has been given to recipients including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Senators Carl Levin, Frank Lautenberg, and Ron Wyden, is named in Chernin’s memory.
Submitted by Ben Tue Nov 26 2013 18:18:40 GMT-0500 (EST)
On December 4, 2012, the Senate failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Now the Senate is set to try again – and we need your help to prevent another disappointing outcome. Hearings are underway and it’s critical your Senators hear from you.
Also known as the Disability Treaty, CRPD provides a vital framework for creating legislation and policies around the world that embrace the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. We believe that when rights are denied to members of any minority group, we all suffer.
Submitted by Ben Wed Nov 20 2013 14:38:13 GMT-0500 (EST)
Last week seven young leaders from across the country participated in the inaugural Frank Family Leadership Institute. The vision and inspiration of Lois and Larry Frank, the Institute seeks to identify emerging local leadership to prepare them to lead their JCRCs and the JCPA. Hailing from communities large and small in the east, west, south and Midwest, the group began their journey together with a visit to Krakow, Poland. They visited the Jewish ghetto, the Rama synagogue, and spent a day at Auschwitz and Birkenau. But their trip was not only about the past. The group had an inspiring lunch with Jonathan Orenstein, director of the JCC in Krakow, where they learned about the resurgence of Jewish life in Krakow. After a whirlwind trip, the leaders flew to Israel to join the JCPA Leadership Mission, meeting with high-level Israeli, American and Palestinian officials, and addressing pressing concerns of the Jewish state.
Submitted by Ben Wed Nov 20 2013 14:37:54 GMT-0500 (EST)
On November 1, America went over the food cliff. That was the day – despite still high unemployment and rising food prices – that SNAP (formerly food stamps) was cut by $5 billion, affecting the food budgets of 1 in 7 Americans and costing a family of four about $36 a month. Still, Congress is considering additional cuts to SNAP. The Senate Farm Bill would reduce SNAP funding by $4.1 billion, while the House version of the bill slashes the most important nutrition assistance program by $39 billion.
This week, as these suddenly reduced grocery budgets run out and many families turn to food banks for their meals, join us by urging Congress to prevent more Americans from falling off the food cliff. We have prepared a tweet sheet to use that includes the names of the House and Senate conferees, their twitter handles, and helpful stats and messages on SNAP and the food cliff. Take action to prevent further cuts to SNAP that would leave more families, children, seniors, and people with disabilities without the means to eat by tweeting to Congress and urging them not to cut SNAP in the Farm Bill.
JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow started it off earlier this week with a new blog in the Huffington Post on the food cliff and our obligation to stop the cuts. “As they actively negotiate a Farm Bill, Members of Congress, acting on our behalf, should open their hearts and offer an outstretched hand to those who have fallen over the food cliff,” he wrote. “Simply, there should be no more cuts to SNAP.”
Submitted by Ben Wed Nov 20 2013 14:37:35 GMT-0500 (EST)
What role can faith community partnerships play in fighting climate change? That was the topic last week when JCPA and COEJL met with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and other senior officials at the Environmental Protection Agency and White House to discuss the implementation of the President’s Plan to Fight Climate Change. The meetings were organized by the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. In addition to the role we can play in mobilizing our own communities, COEJL and our partners at the Evangelical Environmental Network, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Eco-Justice Ministries expressed faith-based perspectives and urged officials to implement strong carbon pollution regulations.
Submitted by Ben Wed Nov 20 2013 14:34:09 GMT-0500 (EST)
After three days of talks with the world’s most senior diplomats, Iran still refuses to curb its nuclear program. Although the talks have failed to achieve an agreement so far, the progress made reinforced two points: a diplomatic solution is still preferable and may be possible, and Iran responds to pressure. Sanctions brought Iran to the table, but they are making it clear that current sanctions are not enough to close a deal.
Meanwhile Iran’s centrifuges continue to spin. For diplomacy to work, it must work quickly. The pressure that has worked so far must be increased if we are to prevent Iran from continuing the development of a nuclear weapon. Iran’s continued effort to produce highly enriched uranium threatens U.S. allies including Israel, the broader region, and worldwide stability and peace. The next step is to increase the pressure on Iran by strengthening the sanctions. Only through increased pressure will progress be possible.
Earlier this summer, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan Nuclear Iran Prevention Act (H.R. 850). Now it is time for the Senate to act. Please show your Senator that s/he must act in order to bring Iran back to the table by signing our petition.