Posts by: Ben

Jewish Community Support for Israel

On Monday, July 21, hundreds participated in a joint JCPA-JFNA call to hear about the work of our partners on the ground in Israel aiding Israelis during this difficult time. A range of actions is being undertaken, including providing respite and psychological counseling to affected families, tailored and individual care to at-risk communities, and camps and activities for children who have been stripped of a sense of normalcy and a day-to-day routine. By the time of the call, the JFNA had already allocated millions to these groups during the current crisis, and leaders speaking on the call outlined their accomplishments and strategies.  Monies collected by JFNA are being fully dedicated to programs on the ground, not to administrative overhead.

The callers heard from: Alan Hoffman, Director General of the Jewish Agency for Israel; Eliot Goldstein, Deputy Director, Global Resources of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; Tali Levanon, Director of the Israel Trauma Coalition; Rakefet Ginsburg, Kehillot Development Director of the Masorti Conservative Movement in Israel; Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism; Avital Govrin Chief Development Officer of World ORT; Grace Rodnitski, Director of International Relations for the Ethiopian National Project; and Ilan Halperin, Director of Resource Development and Missions at the UJA Federation of NY.

The Jewish Agency for Israel is providing one-day respite trips for tens of thousands of children, supplying medication and emergency funds for victims of terror, and delivering psychological counseling to families and staff. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is helping at-risk communities including the elderly, the physically and mentally disabled, and economically at-risk families. Caseworkers tailor aid to each individual’s specific needs, whether it is portable toilets or hot meals, and provide safe getaways to individuals and families. Israel Trauma Coalition is providing a “social Iron Dome,” including psychological care for families of soldiers fighting in Gaza and evacuees. Among other things, the group provides local counselors to the Bedouin community. Masorti Conservative Movement in Israel has provided an opportunity for 600 children from the southern areas of Israel to go to camp in the north, where they can take emotional refuge, and has provided day camps for children so their parents can go to work. Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism is sending volunteers to community centers in the south and hosting families with special needs at kibbutzim for respite trips. World ORT is creating activities for children in shelters and families of soldiers, and the Ethiopian National Project is conducting respite camps. The UJA Federation in New York is crafting activities for residents closest to Gaza.

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Iran Talks Extended

On July 18th, it was announced that the negotiations with Iran would be extended for six months. In exchange for additional stocks of nuclear material being diluted or turned into fuel, Iran will get access to $2.8 billion in frozen assets. When negotiations began in January, the JCPA supported diplomacy as “preferable to military action.” In a statement following the July 18th extension, JCPA Chair Susan W. Turnbull said, “From the outset, we have demanded action to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon - and we have also called for patience to allow sanctions and diplomacy to work. Since the diplomatic process is proceeding, we support the extension. The timeline cannot be indefinite, though. Iran must negotiate as a serious partner and not use this extension to continue their work towards a nuclear weapon that can be used to threaten their neighbors, the U.S., or our allies. We hope Iran will finally value the wellbeing of their people more than they value aggression and a nuclear weapons program.”   

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National Jewish Call on Unaccompanied Minors

In the last nine months, over 50,000 unaccompanied children—predominately from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras -- have crossed the southern border of the U.S., fleeing increased violence and transnational organized crime in their home countries. This Wednesday, there will be a National Jewish Conference Call from 3-4 pm EST. We will be joined by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19) and Jewish community members from around the country who are working to respond to the growing numbers of unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. To participate, call 805.399.1000 and enter passcode: 403065#. Feel free to help us spread the word and invite others who might be interested in joining the call.

On Monday, July 7, the JCPA signed onto a Jewish community statement urging President Obama and Congress to protect those unaccompanied children and refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border.  The statement, which was drafted by HIAS and signed by 20 national Jewish organizations, urged the Administration to promptly address the humanitarian crisis. The statement noted that “the only long term solution to this crisis is a holistic approach that prioritizes safety and opportunity for children in the countries of the Northern Triangle,” complementing increased border security with “measures to ensure that all migrants in danger of persecution have access to a meaningful opportunity to seek asylum.”   

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Hamas Rejects Ceasefire, Resumes Attacks

Israel began Operation Protective Edge with the goal of stopping the indiscriminate rocket attacks on its population. Egypt brokered a cease fire agreement that was accepted by Israel but rejected by Hamas, which opted to continue the conflict, endangering lives in both Israel and Gaza. After Hamas rejected the cease fire agreement, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “I cannot condemn strongly enough the actions of Hamas in so brazenly firing rockets in multiple numbers in the face of a goodwill effort to offer a ceasefire in which Egypt and Israel worked together, that the international community strongly supports.”

As this conflict continues, the Senate will vote -- possibly as soon as today -- on a resolution reaffirming US support for Israel’s right to defend itself and demanding that Hamas and other terrorist groups immediately stop their attacks. Senate Resolution 498, introduced by Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Charles Schumer (D-NY), currently has 57 cosponsors. Click here to see if your Senators have become cosponsors of this resolution. If they have not, we encourage you to contact your Senators and urge them to become cosponsors and vote for Senate Resolution 498.

As part of our commitment to keep the Jewish community informed, the JCPA and The Jewish Federations of North America hosted a call for Jewish community leaders with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer on Monday to discuss the events in Israel. And today, Professor Michael Walzer, an expert on the ethical dimensions of asymmetrical warfare and one of America’s foremost political thinkers, briefed a call that was open to our non-Jewish neighbors. Walzer discussed the complex moral decisions facing nations and armies when dealing with conflicts involving irregular forces that use unconventional methods, such as human shields, with a particular focus on the current conflict in Gaza.

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Unaccompanied Children at the Border

In the last nine months, over 50,000 unaccompanied children—predominately from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras -- have crossed the southern border of the U.S., fleeing increased violence and transnational organized crime in their home countries.

On Monday, July 7, the JCPA signed onto a Jewish community statement urging President Obama and Congress to protect those unaccompanied children and refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border.  The statement, which was drafted by HIAS and signed by 20 national Jewish organizations, urged the Administration to promptly address the humanitarian crisis. The statement noted that “the only long term solution to this crisis is a holistic approach that prioritizes safety and opportunity for children in the countries of the Northern Triangle,” complementing increased border security with “measures to ensure that all migrants in danger of persecution have access to a meaningful opportunity to seek asylum.”   

The statement also urged the Administration to maintain its commitment to resettling refugees from the rest of the world and expressed opposition to “any plans to ‘reprogram’ funds that had been budgeted to pay for refugee resettlement services.” 

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Tell Congress to Raise the Wage

The last time the federal minimum wage was raised was five years ago, on July 24, 2009.  The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which translates to an annual salary of $15,080—an income that makes it nearly impossible for many working families to make ends meet and stay out of poverty.
 
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative George Miller (D-CA) have introduced the Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S. 2223/H.R. 1010).  The Minimum Wage Fairness Act would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2015 in three increments of 95 cents. The bill would also provide for annual increases in the rate in future years to keep pace with the rising cost of living. And for the first time in 22 years, the bill would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from its current low rate of $2.13 by 95 cents per year until it is 70% of the regular minimum wage.

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), 30 million workers would see a boost to their income if this bill were passed. In addition, the bill would generate more than $32 billion in new economic activity, translating to 140,000 new full-time jobs and assisting local economies and communities.

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Israel Launches Operation Protective Edge

With the launching of Operation Protective Edge, which has come in response to scores of rockets fired from Gaza into Israeli cities, we stand in solidarity with the people of Israel and pray for their safety during this difficult time. The JCPA, together with our partner organization The Jewish Federations of North America, will be sharing information, analysis and action recommendations in the days ahead.

According to the IDF, over 450 rockets have been launched towards Israel from Gaza since the beginning of the year, with more than 130 rockets hitting Israel in just the past day. More than 40,000 Israeli reservists have been put on alert as part of Operation Protective Edge, which the IDF says is “in order to restore quiet to the region and stop Hamas terrorism.”

In addition to the attacks from Gaza, Israel is still reeling from the murder of three teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frankel, who were kidnapped while walking near Hebron. “We are torn to pieces with sadness,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow in a statement on the murdered teens. “Our grief is matched by a resolve to support the effort to find those whose are responsible and expeditiously bring them to justice.”

That effort, however, cannot include vengeance, as appears to be the case with the murder of Mohammed Abu Khudair, a sixteen year-old Palestinian. “We implore both Israelis and Palestinians to resist the temptation to take justice into their own hands. Revenge is not justice. Tragedy is never an excuse for lawlessness. More than ever, humanity demands that the violence end before more children are lost and more families devastated," said JCPA Chair Susan W. Turnbull.

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Support the Gillibrand-Murkowski Summer Meals Act

On Wednesday, June 25, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) introduced the Summer Meals Act (S. 2527), which would help feed low-income children during the summer months by enhancing the U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program.

The Gillibrand-Murkowski Act would help more children access healthy food by lowering the Summer Food Service Program’s eligibility threshold, reduce the paperwork burden for private-public partnerships, provide transportation to the summer meals sites, and provide additional meals for children who attend evening programs. “Many children receive their only meal at school during the year, and when school is out for the summer, they go hungry,” said Senator Gillibrand.  “Every child who is hungry should have food year round.”

“A basic truth about too many vulnerable young Alaskans is that when school is out, their hunger doesn’t go on vacation  For them, summer means the sound of a growling belly, not the sounds of play and laughter,” said Senator Murkowski. Nationwide, 31 million children receive free or reduced-price school meals, but only one in seven of these children has access to meals during the summer break. 

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Climate Change and National Security

Understanding that we are stewards of creation, the Jewish community has been vocal about the need to combat climate change and protect the environment. Climate change will not only have environmental and economic costs, but national security implications as well. This was the message of Rear Admiral David Titley when he addressed a gathering in Pittsburgh at an event on Wednesday, June 25th,  cohosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Pittsburgh and the JCPA. Rear Admiral Titley, director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Pennsylvania State, served in the navy for 32 years and was the founder and leader of the U.S. Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change. In an oped written to accompany the event, Rear Admiral Titley wrote, “Climate change affects military readiness, strains base resilience, creates missions in new regions of the world and increases the likelihood that our armed forces will be deployed for humanitarian missions.” This event is part of a series of events cohosted by the JCPA with future events being held in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Minneapolis, and St. Louis.

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JCPA Heartbroken by Murdered Israeli Teens

Just over two weeks ago, three Israeli teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frankel, were kidnapped while walking near Hebron. On Monday, we were heartbroken to learn that the IDF found the three boys dead. “This is the saddest possible news for the families of these young boys, Israelis, and all of us around the world who have been praying for their safe return since they disappeared two weeks ago,” said JCPA Chair Susan W. Turnbull in a statement following the news.

“All of us today are mourning for Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “They were just boys. They had their futures inhumanely robbed from them. We are torn to pieces with sadness.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "In the name of the entire people of Israel, I wish to say to the dear families – the mothers, the fathers, the grandmothers and grandfathers, the sisters and brothers – that our hearts bleed, the whole nation cries with you.” His comments were mirrored by religious, political and community leaders from around the world. President Obama said, “As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing.  The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth.” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the murders as well, saying “There can be no justification for the deliberate killing of civilians.”

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