Posts by: Haya

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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JCPA Guidelines for Community Events

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Guidelines for Community Events

Welcome.

To help ensure a civil and productive conversation, we remind everyone here, speakers as well as audience members, that we gather as a community to discuss and debate, but not to degrade. Our goal is a civil and constructive discussion.

This goal has deep roots and support in Torah and our community’s traditions. Our Sages understood and appreciated the fruit of arguments that were conducted l’shem Shamayim, “for the sake of Heaven.” They fervently believed that great minds, engaged in earnest seeking and questioning, could find better and richer solutions to the problems they faced. They refrained from insisting on uniformity. They sought to preserve and thereby honor the views of the minority as well as the majority. This they did through the great teaching, Eilu v’elu divrei Elokim chayim, “both these and those are the words of the living God.”

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JCPA Resolution on Civility

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Resolution on Civility

Adopted by 2010 Plenum

Robust, vigorous debate about the pressing issues of the day is vital and essential in a pluralistic society, including within our diverse Jewish community. 

              

Deep divisions are to be expected over how to address many issues including but not limited to the domestic economy, the environment, health care, American military involvement abroad, the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the existential threats posed to Israel by terror and Iranian nuclear ambition. A frank and civil exchange of ideas helps to inform and distill consensus.   In recent years, however, we have been witness to an increasing challenge in general society and in our own community.    There is greater political and socio-economic polarization, the deterioration of civil interaction, decreased sense of common ground among individuals with divergent perspectives, greater tension around global issues and their impact on American society.  At times divisions spill over into racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of prejudice and bias.  It is cause for great concern.

   

 

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Resolution on International LGBT Discrimination

by JCPA

Adopted by the 2014 JCPA Plenum

Throughout the world, persons who are identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT) often face pervasive discrimination which sometimes includes state-sanctioned violence and the possibility of execution. Laws that punish people for who they are or are perceived to be create a deep culture of hatred that can place LGBT people and their allies in grave risk.

Russia, the host of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, imposed a series of draconian restrictions prohibiting positive expressions about LGBT people. The new law coincides with brutal treatment by police of those protesting the restrictions and widespread arrest of activists.

Uganda’s laws, made significantly more draconian in late February 2014, criminalize homosexual sex acts, with life sentences imposed for repeat “offenders.” Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has blamed his country’s economic problems on LGBT people and has increased political oppression, beating and arresting LGBT citizens. Nigeria passed a law providing a 10-year prison sentence for anyone who promotes gay rights, associates with LGBT organizations, or publically displays their same-sex relationship. In Iran and Saudi Arabia, a conviction for a non-heterosexual sexual activity frequently results in a swift, public execution. In December of 2011, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report detailing hate-motivated bias, torture, detention, discrimination and even death suffered by LGBT people across the world, finding that violence against LGBT people tends to be even more severe than other bias-motivated crimes.

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Resolution on Rising Anti-Semitism and Other Threats to Jewish Communities in Europe

by JCPA

Adopted by the 2014 JCPA Plenum

European Jewish communities face increasing threats from anti-Semitism and challenges to religious practices which are basic to Jewish religious identity. The underlying forces driving expressions of anti-Semitism and campaigns against religious freedom vary among countries but can be found across Europe. Anti-Semitic attacks on individuals, synagogues, cemeteries and schools occur with disturbing frequency. Of particular concern is the rise in violent incidents. A recent European Union survey of Jewish communities reflected significant fear of physical assaults and extensive avoidance of wearing kippot or other items that identify one as Jewish out of concerns for personal security.

Ten years after the adoption by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of its landmark Berlin Declaration on Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic attitudes remain distressingly high in Europe. The Anti-Defamation League’s 2012 poll found that nearly one-third subscribed to anti-Jewish notions such as Jews having too much power in business or being more loyal to Israel than their own country. Expressions of Anti-Israel hatred remain a concern in Europe, and attempts to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state using classic anti-Semitic motifs and tactics such as BDS are among the most common manifestations of anti-Semitism today.

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Resolution on Reproductive Health

by JCPA

Adopted by the 2014 JCPA Plenum

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) has a strong interest in the subject of reproductive health including family planning and abortion – a subject extensively addressed in Jewish law and practice.

Rabbis in our community offer private and compassionate pastoral care to women who seek out their spiritual guidance on a range of matters related to their reproductive health and pregnancy-related care, including abortion, thereby enabling a woman to consider the rich teachings of the Jewish tradition while making her own private moral decision.

Our Jewish community is also informed by the unique experience we have had living in the United States, where constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom has afforded unparalleled Jewish security. Our community has thrived and prospered in this country, while freely practicing our religion. Equal protection under the law, freedom of religious expression, and the separation of religion and state have provided a modern cultural overlay to our Jewish community’s unique understanding of reproductive freedom, including access to family planning and abortion.

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Resolution on Increasing the Minimum Wage

by JCPA

Adopted by the 2014 JCPA Plenum

Jewish tradition repeatedly calls for social justice, demanding that we not only feed the hungry, but also help those in need become self-sufficient. The Torah repeatedly emphasizes the need to treat workers fairly. According to Deuteronomy 24:14-15, "You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer ... but you must pay him his wages on the same day, … for he is needy and urgently depends on it….” The federal minimum wage, $7.25 since July, 2009, has failed to keep up with the cost of living. Had it kept up since 1968 when it was $1.60, in today’s dollars it would now be close to $11.00 an hour. The federal minimum wage law was enacted in 1938 to establish a floor, below which wages would not go, but for too many workers the floor is also the ceiling.

Historically, minimum wage workers were more likely to be the less advantaged among us -- younger rather than older, female rather than male, African-American or Latino rather than white -- and that is still the case. However, because of the lagging economic recovery and continued high unemployment, more workers of every age, gender and race find themselves working at jobs that only pay the minimum wage.

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Resolution on Increasing Government Support for Public Higher Education

by JCPA

Adopted by the 2014 JCPA Plenum

Education has been a core value throughout Jewish history, reflected in Maimonides's writing that, "any city that does not have a school in it shall be cut off [from all contact] until they find a teacher for the children."

Public higher education, from the community college to the university level, has long been recognized as the gateway to opportunity for individuals and as an essential underpinning for the economic advancement and competitiveness of the United States. On average, college graduates earn about twice what high school graduates earn over a 45 year career. Support for public higher education has been eroding for decades and has fallen precipitously since the Great Recession. This decline in public financing has been offset by commensurate increases in tuition and fees.

Funding for public higher education institutions comes from two sources, state and local government appropriations and tuition and fees. These two sources totaled $11,085 per full time equivalent (FTE) student in 1987 and nearly the same, $11,095, per FTE student 25 years later in 2012. However, the share paid by each of these sources changed dramatically. In 1987, government appropriations, at $8,497 per FTE student, accounted for 77% of the total, while tuition and fees accounted for 23%. By 2012, government appropriations had fallen to $5,906, 53% of the total, while tuition and fees now accounted for 47% of the total, and had more than doubled, increasing from $2,588 to $5,189.

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Resolution on Inclusion and Disabilities

by JCPA

Adopted by the 2014 JCPA Plenum

In Genesis 1:27, we read that Adam, and by extension, all people, was created in “the image of God.” This teaches us that there is holiness in all people, regardless of their physical, sensory, emotional or intellectual abilities. Everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.

Each individual can contribute in some way to the community and the world. Pirke Avot 4:3 says: “Do not despise any person, and do not disparage any object. For there is none who does not have his/her hour and there is no object that does not have its place.” It is our responsibility to provide opportunities for the realization of each person’s contributions and to remove or mitigate obstacles, as Leviticus 19:14 warns, “Do not curse a person who is deaf and do not place a stumbling block in front of a person who is blind.”

We are also reminded of the importance of education in creating an inclusive community: Jewish tradition teaches us to "educate every child according to his way" (Proverbs 22:6). In so doing, we commit ourselves not only to academic achievement, but also to the development of a Jewish identity, which includes a sense of "belonging" as a community member.

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