Posts by: Haya

August 14, 2014: JCPA Mourns the Death of Leonard "Leibel" Fein

NEW YORK - The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) joins mourners worldwide today in grieving the loss of Leonard “Leibel” Fein, founder of the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and co-founder and editor of Moment Magazine.

“The world has lost one of its great lights. Leonard“Leibel” Fein was a rare human being – a visionary, a thinker, a teacher, and a doer,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow.  “A giant of justice has passed to wherever giants go. “He was a dear personal friend and an important part of the JCPA familya vibrant presence at our annual Plenum.  It was heartening to be with him last month at his 80th birthday when many of the leaders of the Jewish world came together to show our love and admiration for someone who has given so much to so many. While his earthly presence will no longer grace our dinners and our conversations, his consistent drive to do all we can to make the world better than it is will linger in our minds and hearts as we continue to pursue the dreams he dreamed.”

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Make a Difference: Environmental Action for your Home & House of Worship


Pictured: Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley, St. Louis JEI Chair Susan Mlynarczyk, St. Louis JCRC Domestic Issues Director Gail Wechsler and Jared Bierbach of the JCPA. Photo by Philip Deitch.

On Thursday evening July 31, close to 140 people attended the event “Make a Difference: Environmental Action for your Home & House of Worship” at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. The event, co-sponsored by JCRC’s Jewish Environmental Initiative (JEI), the US Green Buildings Council, Missouri Gateway Chapter (USGBC) and Missouri Interfaith Power & Light (MO IPL) featured keynote speakers meteorologist Mike Roberts and civil rights and environmental leader Rev. Gerald Durley. Both speakers emphasized the importance of acting now to reduce the impact of climate change by reducing carbon pollution. After the keynote addresses, participants attended two concurrent breakout sessions to learn about specific ways to Green their homes and houses of worship. This event was supported by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life.

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Interfaith Calls

In the third in a series of interfaith calls designed to provide perspectives to non-Jewish leaders on aspects of the current conflict in Gaza, participants heard a frank assessment of the situation from Yossi Alpher on July 30, 2014.

Alpher outlined the regional backdrop against which the current operations are unfolding, and the current goals of both actors in the conflict. He noted that neither side in the Gaza conflict has had a decisive victory. The Israeli public is united in support of Operation Protective Edge, even as a growing humanitarian dimension is causing a segment in the international community to question some of the Israel’s military decisions. Alpher warned of a host of dangers occasioned by the current “ugly, asymmetric war” and hoped for an outcome that would be an improvement over the status quo ante. 

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National Leadership Assembly for Israel

 On Monday, July 29 more than 600 top leaders gathered representing Jewish federations and community relations councils from over 50 communities joined leading members of the Conference of Presidents for an event demonstrating the Jewish community's unity and steadfast support for Israel. The group heard from National Security Advisor Susan Rice, House Speaker John Boehner, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and other congressional and faith leaders. The speakers were each clear in their affirmation of Israel's right to defend itself from Hamas rocket and tunnel attacks, the unshakable bond between the U.S. and Israel.  

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August 1, 2014: JCPA Echoes US Sentiments Condemning Kidnapping of Israeli Soldier

NEW YORK – The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) commends the White House for its strong stance against the kidnapping of Israel Defense Forces soldier Hadar Goldin, calling the action “barbaric.” This violation of the UN brokered 72-hour ceasefire is just one of many incidents in which the militant group violated ceasefire agreements during the current conflict and has continued to target Israel and its people.

“Hamas’ actions and consistent violation of international law and ceasefire agreements demonstrates that this terrorist group is not interested in peace, but instead the destruction of the State of Israel,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “We commend both the White House and Secretary of State John Kerry who condemned Hamas for this “outrageous violation” of the most recent ceasefire. Hamas has built and has used its network of terror tunnels to kill and kidnap Israeli citizens and soldiers – the tunnels must be destroyed and the rocket attacks stopped.”

“As Secretary Chuck Hagel stated, the path for peace can only be paved with the disarmament of Hamas,” said JCPA Chair Susan W. Turnbull. “We must stand by Israel and work to demilitarize Gaza in hopes of peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.”

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Environmental Action For Your Synagogue


This Thursday, the Jewish Environmental Initiative (JEI) a committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis along with Missouri Interfaith Power and Light and the U.S. Green Building Council will co-host an action-oriented program designed to help save energy in homes and synagogues. The event is supported by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL).

The program, Make a Difference: Environmental Action for Your Home & House of Worship will feature award-winning meteorologist Mike Roberts and Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley, a national board member of Interfaith Power & Light, former pastor of the Providence Missionary Baptist Church of Atlanta, and an inductee into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. Break-out sessions will include discussions for greening your home and greening your house of worship. Suggestions will be provided of how to get started in the process of reducing energy use. 

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Welcoming the Stranger

Avi Poster, from the Nashville CRC and Chairman of the Coalition for Education About Immigration, attended the White House Conference on Immigration Integration this month and has written the following report. 

In direct contrast to the critical conversations that frequently take place between immigration advocates and Washington DC policy-makers, a unique event took place at the White House this month. More than 200 representatives from over 60 U.S. cities gathered to share their best practices at embracing and integrating immigrants into their communities. The purpose of the conference was to highlight the most successful non-profit and municipal welcoming initiatives and, even more importantly, engage in substantive conversations with high ranking government officials about how the federal government can better support local integration efforts.  This conference was co-sponsored by the White House and Welcoming America and was supported by partners including the National Partnership for New Americans, the Partnership for a New American Economy, and Americas Society/Council on the Americas.  Featured speakers included Cecilia Munoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Felicia Escobar, Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, Karl Dean, Mayor of Nashville, Richard Stolz, Executive Director of OneAmerica, David Lubell, Executive Director of Welcoming America, Alejandro Mayuras, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, and many other leading voices.  

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JCPA convened several calls last week in response to the ongoing crisis in Gaza


First, CRC professionals came together with the JCPA and IAN staff in a conference call to discuss the situation on the ground and their communities’ actions to stand with Israel. The call provided a valuable opportunity to brainstorm, clarify our community positions, and acknowledge successes and challenges. Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and CEO of the JCPA, kicked off the call, explaining that the current challenge is twofold: creating soft messages reflecting our collective concern about the death toll on both sides while simultaneously taking a strong stance against Hamas and its tactics. He also stressed the importance of solidarity within the Jewish community. To that end, JCPA is working with partners to arrange a “fly-in” to Washington for the national Jewish community leadership.  Discussion focused on how to translate our messages to the non-Jewish community, and how—and whether— to create local solidarity events and to respond to local anti-Israel events. 

Then, on Wednesday, July 23, interfaith and intergroup leaders from around the country participated in a conference call featuring Dr. Tal Becker, a leading Israeli scholar on issues surrounding the current conflict. Dr. Becker is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute and a senior member of the Israeli peace negotiation team.  He serves as Principal Deputy Legal Adviser at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and works at the forefront of many of Israel’s most pressing diplomatic, legal, and policy challenges. He was a lead negotiator in the Annapolis peace talks, and he served as the Vice-Chairman of the United Nations General Assembly’s Legal Committee. He is the author of Terrorism and the State: Rethinking the Rules of State Responsibility, which won the Guggenheim Prize for best international law book. Dr. Becker holds a doctorate from Columbia University, and lectures widely throughout the world.

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JCPA Statement on Civility

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JCPA Statement on Civility

In American society, especially in our diverse Jewish community, we value robust and vigorous debate about pressing issues. Such debate is one of the greatest features of our democracy and one of the hallmarks of our people. We revel in our tradition of debate: A frank and civil exchange of ideas helps to inform our decisions, provoke new ways of thinking, and sometimes even change our minds.

And yet today, the expression and exchange of views is often an uncivil, highly unpleasant experience. Community events and public discussions are often interrupted by raised voices, personal insults, and outrageous charges. Such incivility serves no purpose but to cheapen our democracy. When differences spiral down into uncivil acrimony, the dignity of individuals and community is diminished, and our precious democracy is weakened. People holding diverse views cease to listen to each other. Lack of civility makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to open minds, much less find common ground.

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