Posts by: Haya

Resolution on Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Reform


Adopted at the 2015 JCPA Town Hall

Over the last four decades, this country has pursued a drug policy that has done little to curtail usage and has had significant negative impact on our society. Drug arrests comprise half the arrests in our criminal justice system, and approximately half of those are marijuana arrests—the vast majority of which are for simple possession for personal use. There are more marijuana arrests each year in this country than for all violent crimes combined. Overall levels of incarceration in the U.S. have increased dramatically since the 1970s.

Arrests and prosecutions for drug offenses fall vastly disproportionately on African-Americans and Latinos, despite usage among Caucasians at similar rates. Recent police/citizen encounters resulting in the deaths of black men in Ferguson, Baltimore, and other cities have highlighted the degree to which our law enforcement systems focus disproportionately on minority communities. The events in Ferguson and Baltimore underscore the dangers of continuing our policing emphasis on drug possession, since the drastic increases in arrests for drug possession and other low-level non-violent crimes have fueled the increase in negative police-community interactions.

Long sentences and mandatory incarceration for minor drug offenses, including marijuana possession, have not significantly deterred drug use or reduced addiction rates, which are in any event low for marijuana compared with other drugs—both legal and illegal. Instead, mass arrests and incarceration have removed large numbers of people from productive engagement in their communities. Criminalization degrades the conditions that can aid in recovery for people who are addicted—such as access to treatment and support networks, gainful employment, and education. Mass incarceration is a significant contributing factor to poverty, income inequality, and family instability. African-American and Latino leaders with whom we serve in coalitions routinely point to racial disparities in the criminal justice system as one of their highest priorities. Major civil rights organizations regularly call for changes in drug laws as one strategy to address these concerns and have backed efforts in federal and state legislatures to change policy on marijuana in particular.

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Resolution on Paid Sick Leave


Adopted at the 2015 JCPA Town Hall

The rights of workers have long been a bedrock social justice concern and a priority of American Jews. With strong Jewish leadership, major achievements such as the minimum wage, the forty-hour work week, the abolition of child labor, and family and medical leave have enhanced the quality of life for millions over successive generations.

This commitment is inspired by Jewish tradition that speaks strongly to valuing workers’ dignity as well as maintaining healthy families. We are taught in the Torah, “You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow Israelite or a stranger in one of the communities of your land. You must pay out the wages due on the same day, before the sun sets, for the worker is needy and urgently depends on it; else a cry to the Eternal will be issued against you and you will incur guilt” (Deut. 24:14-15).

The landmark 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act recognized the familial needs that tug at every worker. But neither this nor any other federal law requires employers to continue to pay workers during their family or medical leave. By supporting paid sick leave we hope to ensure that no one must choose between their health or the health of a family member and their financial security.

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Resolution on Confronting Poverty: Affordable High-Quality Early Childhood Care and Education for Ages Zero Through Five


Adopted at the 2015 JCPA Town Hall

Children, when born, do not choose their parents or their circumstances. No child, once born, should suffer through poverty and adversity. Every child should be viewed as equally precious and worthy.

In the U.S., a child’s prospect for the future is more dependent on a parent’s income and education than in any other advanced country. Rabbi Michael Rothbaum of Danville, California observes: “As Jews, who’ve suffered generations of personal and economic degradation, we should know better. As Jews possessed of a timeless text that links us to our economically exploited ancestors in Egypt, we should do better. And as Jews who gifted the world the concept of tzedek, of a just and fair economic order, we should be better. It is our job, our sacred task.”

Recent neurological studies draw a connection between the effects of poverty on young children’s brain development, such that living in poverty subjects them to additional stress and hindered development compared to their counterparts of greater economic advantage. Stress and adversity (emotional, physical, chemical) that occur before age two in the human brain result in long-term irreversible damage. Before the age of six, the brain quadruples in weight and reaches 90 percent of its adult size. The brain is the most flexible early in life and its capacity for change decreases with age.

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Resolution on Anti-Semitism


Adopted at the 2015 JCPA Town Hall

In 2014 and the first part of 2015, there were three deadly terrorist attacks on European Jewish institutions: the Jewish museum in Brussels, a kosher grocery store in Paris, and a synagogue in Copenhagen. In the United States, while the total number of anti-Semitic incidents remains at historically low levels, there were some particularly violent ones in 2014, most notably the shootings at the JCC in Overland Park, Kansas. In that incident, a gunman killed three people while firing on two Jewish facilities.

These fatal attacks took place against a backdrop of aggression against Jews and Jewish institutions, including vandalism and graffiti, verbal and physical harassment of individuals, and anti-Semitic rhetoric as part of public discourse. Sometimes, attempts are made to justify such behavior by referring to Israel’s ongoing conflict with the Palestinians.

While anti-Semitism exists throughout the world, a number of factors have made the situation in Europe increasingly volatile:

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Resolution on Armenian Genocide


Adopted at the 2015 JCPA Town Hall

Historians and scholars tell us that the Armenian people were the victims of the first genocide of the twentieth century at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, the predecessors of modern-day Turkey. Approximately 1.5 million Armenians were killed or expelled from their homes and deported. The year 2015 is the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide. The government of Turkey has, to this day, refused to acknowledge such genocide took place.

The Armenian Genocide is a distant memory in the minds of the children of survivors. However, there is abundant documentation of the atrocities, particularly by former U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau. Nevertheless, Hitler stated in 1939, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

The Jewish communities, as the targets of one of the worst genocides of the twentieth century, have a bond with the Armenian people here in the United States and abroad. We have a moral obligation to work toward recognition of the genocide perpetrated against the Armenian people.

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Resolution on Refugee Crisis


Adopted at the 2015 JCPA Town Hall

Guided by our own history as refugees as well as our shared biblical and prophetic mandate to protect and welcome the stranger, the American Jewish community has always been a stakeholder in refugee resettlement and protection, both in the U.S. and in other countries—offering new beginnings, including helping to welcome more than three million refugees who have arrived in the U.S. for resettlement since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980.

By definition, refugees are persons who cannot return to their countries of origin due to a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of who they are or what they believe. The 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol (the Refugee Convention) prohibits returning a refugee to his or her country of persecution; requires access to fair and humane asylum procedures for all asylum seekers; and states that countries shall not penalize refugees for illegal entry or presence. There are 148 countries that have signed either one or both of these international legal instruments, including the United States, Israel, and all European Union member states.

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Iran Framework Agreement Announced


Last week, the P5 + 1 nations and Iran released the parameters on a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) concerning Iran’s nuclear program. This plan provides a political framework for a comprehensive agreement that will be written by June 30, 2015. 

Although reactions to the agreement have varied widely, official statements from the organized Jewish community have been remarkably consistent. While most statements praised the Administration’s hard work and perseverance in the negotiations and stressed the desirability of finding a diplomatic solution, it is clear that many in the American Jewish community do not trust Iran to negotiate in good faith and are especially concerned with its current destabilizing activities in the region and its aggressive rhetoric toward Israel. Most of the statements also urged the President to seek some sort of Congressional review for the final agreement.

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Terror Attack on Christians at University in Kenya


As Jews prepared for their Seders and Christians observed Good Friday, news came that the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabab murdered 147 Christians at a university in Kenya. Another 79 were wounded. According to news reports, the Islamist militant group singled out Christian students at Garissa University. According to one student, “if you were Christian, you were shot on the spot.” The Jewish Council for Public Affairs has been in communication with Christian leaders to express our condolences to the families of the victims, and our outrage at the massacre. JCPA President and CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow said “the world cannot sit by while innocent lives are extinguished in modern day killing fields. This must stop. It is too much to bear.” JCPA Chair Susan Turnbull added “the story of Passover is one of liberation - and our prayer today is that those who live in fear of terror and violence may soon know freedom and peace. Very soon.”

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Wishing you a Happy Pesach!


Beginning last week Jews around the world gathered in their homes, community centers, and Synagogues to tell the exodus story. In celebrating the Jewish people's freedom from slavery and delivery from Egypt to the promised land, many took this opportunity to discuss modern day slavery, plagues, and paths of liberation. In what ways are people still in shackles in American or around the world--both physical and symbolically?  Many JCRCS took lessons from the holiday of Passover and hosted social justice Seders.

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JCRC hosts Middle East panel discussion

More than 400 community members attended a Middle East Forum led by a panel of experts to learn about issues facing Israel and its neighboring countries on March 25, at The Tradition of the Palm Beaches. The panel included members of both Israel's and Palestinian Authority's peace negotiating teams. Event moderator Liz Quirantes, news anchor of TV's CBS 12 led the discussion.

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