Gilad Shalit's Homecoming

After five years of captivity in the hands of Hamas, Gilad is finally back in Israel and in the comfort of his own home and family. In a statement, JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow and Chair Dr. Conrad Giles said, “Today’s exchange marks the end of a painful episode for Israel.  We wish Gilad, his family, and all Israelis, peace and pray that this will be an opportunity for new beginnings.”

In exchange for Shalit, Israel released 477 Palestinian prisoners as the first phase of a deal that will see the eventual release of 1,027 prisoners. Many who will be freed have the blood of Israeli men, women and children on their hands. This deal represents the commitment Israeli leadership has to the lives of young men and women enlisted in military service. As Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a letter to bereaved families of terror victims, “The State of Israel does not abandon its soldiers and citizens.”

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Now that we can sue, when should we?

A debate about fighting anti-Israel activity on campuses threatens to divide the Jewish community.  At next week’s Task Force and Board Meetings, JCPA will try to reach consensus on this critical topic.

Join the debate as leaders from across the country and religious and political spectrums discuss the conditions when it is appropriate to use the courts to counter anti-Israel activity.  On Sunday, legal and academic experts will discuss the climate on campuses and remedies such as Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  On Monday, the JCPA Board will debate a resolution on point. In The Forward, JCPA’s Gerald Greiman said of the pending resolution, “We are really trying to drive a ship through some treacherous waters and be mindful of the hazards that lurk on both sides.”

The session on the use of Title VI will be just one of the many important conversations held at these upcoming meetings. And spots are still open. Join experts, professionals, volunteers, and activists to share experiences and plan strategies for the Jewish community on areas like Israel at the UN, the budget, election organizing, and the Arab Spring. This is an unique opportunity and we want your voice there.

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Take a Journey with Conrad and Steve

Very soon the JCPA and our partners will travel a difficult road—not a journey to Israel nor to a hot spot in the world but an inner journey, a route on which we will begin to understand how those who are hungry in America barely survive. We are going to take the Food Stamp Challenge. For seven days we will live on the same amount of money as the average food stamp recipient in America --$31.50. If you are able to take the same journey, please join us and register to take the Challenge at www.foodstampchallenge.com.  If you aren’t able to take the Challenge, please support our effort. We are trying to raise good dollars so that the critical advocacy work the JCPA does on behalf of the millions who struggle with hunger and poverty will continue.

Find out about our personal Food Stamp Challenges, and, if you can, contribute $31.50 (the average weekly food stamp budget for an individual) --$126.00 (the weekly food stamp budget for a family of four)---or a larger amount. Click now. Come with us part of the way on this journey and help us help others.

Sukkot, the holiday of happiness, is coming to an end and as we celebrate our own joy, we know that others are not so happy.

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Deal Reached to Bring Gilad Shalit Home

Today, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, should be coming home in the next few days to his loved ones in Israel.  Gilad’s return is pending on the successful implementation of a prisoner exchange deal reached by Israel and Hamas. Since his abduction by Hamas terrorists on June 25, 2006, the JCPA has made it a priority to press for his immediate release. To commemorate the 5th anniversary of Gilad Shalit’s capture, through a multi-media campaign using Video, Facebook, Twitter, printed and written materials, the JCPA created a public forum to draw attention to memorable events over the past five years, which Gilad has missed. You can see that site here. Today, please join with the JCPA in welcoming Gilad Shalit home. Read more about Gilad’s release here and here

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Our Chance to Sway Congress on the Budget

Ellen Teller from FRAC

Washington’s not a one-way street. The super-committee is beginning its work on deficit reduction proposals that will affect retirement, housing, hunger programs, heating assistance, health care, and more. The new reductions in government spending will have a significant impact on your lives and the work we all do in our communities. But there is still a chance to affect the outcome. Involvement from the Jewish community will be crucial in shaping the plan that Congress ultimately decides upon. Here’s your chance to learn how. The JCPA is inviting you to our October Task Force Meetings in New York City for a discussion with Ellen Teller from the Food Research Action Center. An expert in federal policy and advocacy, Ellen will share her experience and talk with Jewish leaders, volunteers, and anybody interested in these issues about how they can be involved and what the new proposals will mean for our work.

After the discussion, the JCPA is offering everyone an opportunity to take action to protect vital federal feeding programs by participating in the Food Stamp Challenge – a challenge to live for 1 week on the average food stamp allotment of $31.50, or approximately $4.50 per day and $1.50 per meal.

The Food Stamp Challenge is an opportunity to personally experience the challenges of hunger in the United States – challenges that the 1 in 7 Americans who use food stamps, including nearly 25% of all American children, face daily. When you take the Food Stamp Challenge, you’ll be joining hundreds of community members, elected officials, religious leaders, and local celebrities, including notable public figures such Rabbi David Saperstein, Ruth Messinger, Rep. Tim Ryan, and Rep. Barbara Lee.

You can also multiply the impact of your Food Stamp Challenge nationally and at home by asking your friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors to sponsor your Food Stamp Challenge by making a contribution to the JCPA’s Confronting Poverty Campaign. Contributions in increments of $31.50, the average weekly food stamp benefit, will allow those in your network to help you reach your fundraising goal and support the JCPA’s vital anti-poverty efforts, with 20% going back to support local anti-poverty programs in the 3 communities with the greatest participation.

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IAN Micro-grants for Israel Programs

Calling all communities: do you have a great idea for countering assaults made on Israel’s legitimacy in your community? Then tell the Israel Action Network (IAN)! IAN is seeking to assist communities by providing micro-grants to Federations and/or JCRCs that will enable them to counter delegitimization in a greater capacity than ever before. Seed money will be provided for larger scale projects that could range from social media campaigns to wide-tent education series for non-Jewish leaders. Federations and CRCs are eligible to apply for up to $5,000 for new, continuing, or expanding programs that fulfill IAN’s mission of developing strategic approaches to counter the assault on Israel’s legitimacy and develop innovative efforts to change the conversation about Israel (CRCs and Federation that partner with outside agencies are eligible for up to $7,500!). IAN is now accepting requests for proposals and priority will be given to under-resourced communities.

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Israel at the UN – What’s next?

The Palestinians have asked the UN for recognition. Now what? How does this change things for Israel? What are the next steps? What should our communities be doing to respond?

Ron Prosor, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, is better positioned than anyone to understand the Palestinian statehood bid and what is being done, and the JCPA is offering you the unique opportunity to join him in conversation. This October 23-24 is your chance to get an inside view of what's next from the leading figure on Israel’s diplomatic front lines.

The JCPA's annual October Task Force and Board Meetings in New York City bring together a most impressive group of Jewish community relations professionals and volunteers. Anyone interested in the issues facing the Jewish community is welcome to attend. This year, in addition to Ambassador Prosor, we are honored to be joined by experts on the budget, anti-Semitism on campus, the coming election, and other issues important to the work in our communities.

At JCPA's Task Force and Board Meetings, we don't just want lectures from experts, though, we want to hear from you, the community professionals and volunteers who know the everyday challenges. Lend your voice to the Jewish community’s roundtable.

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It’s Live!

The Food Stamp Challenge is now online! Check out the features on the newly live foodstampchallenge.com. Here you can get facts of the day about hunger in the US, educational resources to help raise awareness, and tips for making it through the challenge. You can also share your experience with your network, invite your Members of Congress to join you, and create a personal fundraising goal. Check it out!

When you take the Food Stamp Challenge, you’ll be joining hundreds of community members, elected officials, religious leaders, and local celebrities, including notable public figures such Rabbi David Saperstein, Ruth Messinger, Rep. Tim Ryan, and Rep. Barbara Lee.

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Peace Needs Partners

The Israel Action Network (IAN) is kicking off the New Year with one message: peace needs two partners, Israelis and Palestinians. But in order to achieve this, both parties need to sit down, together, at the negotiating table and resume direct discussions, rather than through unilateral steps as the Palestinians have done at the UN. This is the goal of IAN’s new video, “Peace Needs Partners” a campaign calling for an immediate return to the negotiating table. It’s also the message just put forth by the Quartet, comprised of the United States, European Union, Russia and the UN, and echoed by over 100,000 supporters of our petition for peace. And now, with the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood awaiting a decision in the U.N., it is of the upmost importance to continue to let world leaders know that we oppose their unilateral path, which will only serve to prevent peace. We need your support to continue to amplify this effort; please watch and circulate this important video with your communities, families and friends and remind the Palestinian Authority and the U.N. that the only way for two states for two peoples to live side by side in peace and security is through bilateral negotiations. Peace needs two partners, without preconditions.

Click here to view the video and be sure to share on your websites and through social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter (use #PeaceNeedsPartners when tweeting).

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Elected Officials Join IAN at UN to Oppose UDI

With the United Nations headquarters in the background, the Israel Action Network (IAN) hosted several elected officials and leaders from the North American Jewish community Monday, together with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. The press conference, held to oppose a unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood, featured speakers such as New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, among many others, who called for a return to bilateral, direct negotiations toward two states for two peoples.

“The Palestinians’ unilateral bid for statehood through the United Nations is a harmful distraction from achieving true peace and stability between Israel and Palestine,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The only credible path for a two-state solution is through the negotiating table. The United States has made clear to the Palestinians and to others around the world that we stand with our ally Israel at this time of grave risk and insecurity.”

Joining Senator Gillibrand at the podium were Rep. Nan Hayworth, Rep. Nita Lowey, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Rep. Charles Rangel, Rep. Bob Turner, NY-State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Michael S. Miller, Executive Vice President and CEO, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York; Alan Jaffe, President, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York; Rabbi Steve Gutow,  President of Jewish Council for Public Affairs which partners with The Jewish Federations of North America as a cosponsor of the Israel Action Network; Jerry Levin, The Jewish Federations of North America Board of Trustees member and president of the Board of UJA-Federation of New York.

The leaders convened to echo the sentiments of over 100,000 supporters of a petition opposing UDI and highlight the danger of a unilateral move. “If a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is to be achieved, I firmly believe that negotiations for a two-state solution must be done through the two parties,” said Rep. Hayworth. “The path chosen by the Palestinian Authority to avoid direct discussions with Israel will only further damage their fragile relationship and is intolerable. The Security Council should oppose the Palestinian Authority's bid for statehood. The state of Israel is a shining example that representative democracy can thrive in the Middle East and I applaud Prime Minister Netanyahu’s lasting commitment to peace and security in the region.”

Rabbi Steve Gutow, JCPA President added, “We all share one goal: peace. Outstanding issues ranging from borders and security to the fate of refugees require cooperation and good faith between the parties, not a unilateral declaration of independence that ignores Israel as a partner in peace. It is time to sit together and make peace; time to stop the posturing and strident rhetoric that characterized President Abbas’s speech.  Israel is ready to meet without preconditions. We ask the same of the Palestinians. Peace needs partners.”

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Protecting Human Needs Programs from Debt Deal

Ellen Teller from FRAC

The JCPA Task Force and Board Meetings are less than a month away! Join us at the Jewish Community’s roundtable and lend your voice to the conversation. This year, instead of just discussing strategies to protect anti-hunger programs, we’re inviting you to join one. 

Ellen Teller from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) will be joining us to discuss how to protect federal human needs programs from potential “Supercommittee” budget cuts. After the discussion, the JCPA is offering everyone an opportunity to take action to protect vital federal feeding programs by participating in the Food Stamp Challenge – a challenge to live for 1 week on the average food stamp allotment of $31.50, or approximately $4.50 per day and $1.50 per meal.

The Food Stamp Challenge is an opportunity to personally experience the challenges of hunger in the United States – challenges that the 1 in 7 Americans who use food stamps, including nearly 25% of all American children, face daily. When you take the Food Stamp Challenge, you will be joining hundreds of others across the country, including religious leaders, elected officials, and celebrities, to build the public and political will to end hunger in the United States.
 
You can also multiply the impact of your Food Stamp Challenge nationally and at home by asking your friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors to sponsor your Food Stamp Challenge by making a contribution to the JCPA’s Confronting Poverty Campaign. Contributions in increments of $31.50, the average weekly food stamp benefit, will allow those in your network to help you reach your fundraising goal and support the JCPA’s vital anti-poverty efforts, with 20% going back to support local anti-poverty programs in the 3 communities with the greatest participation.

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Vigils for Alan Gross

Vigils were held in New York City and Washington, DC last week to call on the Cuban government to immediately release Alan Gross, who was arrested while bringing internet access to the Jewish community there. The twin vigils, co-sponsored by the JCPA, the JCRC’s of NYC and Greater Washington, and others, included government officials, interfaith leaders, and members of Alan’s family. In Washington, JCPA’s Josh Protas joined with Alan’s wife Judy Gross, Rep. Chris Van Hollen and other community members, while the NYC vigil featured Alan’s sister-in-law and a letter from Alan himself read by JCPA Vice President Ethan Felson.

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100,000 Against UDI: IAN Delivers Petition to UN

Today, the Israel Action Network (IAN) and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) were at the UN to deliver a petition to oppose a Palestinian unilateral bid for independence (UDI) and promote bilateral negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The petition, which has attracted 100,000 signers, will be delivered to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. global representatives this week. IAN continues to urge Jews and non-Jews alike to come together on this critical effort as signatures will continue to be collected until the time of the Palestinian vote on September 23. This petition is one of several key components of the IAN North American mobilization to oppose UDI and build on activities at the local level. This includes a joint IAN/JCRC-NY press conference at the U.N. on September 26 with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and other elected and organizational leaders, in addition to meetings with the U.S. UN delegation together with our Canadian counterparts. IAN is also preparing the release of an online video that will further support our messaging to return to the negotiating table and will be available via YouTube to share on your websites and social media channels.

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Release Alan Gross

It is time for Alan Gross, an American humanitarian aid worker arrested in Cuba while building an internet connection for the Jewish community, to return home. In the two years he’s been in confinement, Gross has lost nearly 100 pounds and has been unable to be with his daughter or mother, both of whom suffer from cancer. His imprisonment is simply wrong, and as leaders of the American Jewish community we are speaking out.

This Friday, the JCPA is joining with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, the New York Board of Rabbis, and the Jewish Community Relations Councils of New York and Greater Washington to host simultaneous interfaith vigils in New York and Washington, D.C. calling for his release. We invite you to join us at either vigil, where we will present a petition with over 10,000 signatures calling on Cuban officials to immediately release Alan Gross’s on humanitarian grounds.

Click here to sign the petition

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Food Stamp Challenge

The U.S. Census Bureau just reported that the U.S. poverty rate rose to one out of every six Americans, or 14.2 million, living in poverty last year. We cannot stand idly by; we need to take action now.

And so, the JCPA invites you to join us in taking the Food Stamp Challenge from Thursday, Oct 27 – Thursday, Nov 3. This is a challenge to live for 1 week on the average food stamp allotment of $31.50, or approximately $4.50 per day and $1.50 per meal.

The JCPA is also providing you with a unique opportunity to multiply the impact of your Food Stamp Challenge and to support the JCPA’s anti-poverty work. After you register, you can ask your friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors to sponsor your Food Stamp Challenge by making a contribution to the JCPA’s Confronting Poverty Campaign. Contributions in increments of $31.50, the average weekly food stamp benefit, will allow those in your network to help you reach your fundraising goal and support the JCPA’s vital anti-poverty efforts.

The Food Stamp Challenge website will be live at the end of this week. On the website, you’ll be able to register to take the Food Stamp Challenge, create a personal fundraising goal and send emails to your networks, ask your Member of Congress to take the Food Stamp Challenge with you, and more.

And to make this program more exciting, the JCPA is making this fundraiser into a competition! The 3 communities (1 small, 1 medium, and 1 large community) who have greatest participation in the Food Stamp Challenge will receive a grant for 20% of the money raised in their community  to support local anti-poverty programs.

Now is the time to act. Will you join us?

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American Jobs Act

With the background of the August jobless rate remaining at 9.1% and a shocking zero number of jobs created in the last month, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress last Thursday to introduce the American Jobs Act. The bill, which will be considered by Congress in the coming weeks, saves jobs for teachers, firefighters, and police officers; funds infrastructure projects, public school modernization, and rehabilitation for foreclosed homes and businesses; and extends unemployment insurance and incentivizes hiring unemployed veterans, the long-term unemployed, and young adults. In addition, payroll taxes are reduced for 160 million workers and 98% of businesses.

The total bill is estimated to cost $447 billion. Facing an uphill battle, it is now up to Congress to consider the bill. The American Jobs Act will be more closely examined in tomorrow’s View from the Capitol. To sign up for these legislative updates please contact Elyssa Koidin.

Highlighting the urgency to restart economic growth, the U.S. Census Bureau, today, released their 2010 Poverty and Health Insurance Data. In 2010, the poverty level reached 15.1%—the highest level since 1993. 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty in 2010 and 49.9 million people are without health insurance. The data also shows that median incomes declined by 2.3% in 2010. The total number of people living in poverty is currently at the highest level in the 52 years that the statistics have been collected. This report will be reviewed in next week’s Confronting Poverty.
 

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65,000 Strong Against UDI

In a matter of mere days, a potential Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) is expected at the UN, on or around September 20. It is for that reason now more critical than ever that communities help Israel Action Network (IAN) reach a goal of 100,000 signatures for our petition with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) by Monday, September 19. Already, with just seven days to go, Israel Action Network (IAN) has garnered upwards of 65,000 signatories but there is much work to be done still. IAN is working to raise awareness around UDI with an emphasis on engaging the media on its implications. A key part of this is the petition, which represents a strong message of support from people across North America for a return to the negotiating table as UDI will only damage the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. We therefore now ask for your continued help in driving the momentum forward to reach even higher numbers. Please circulate it with your communities through email, Facebook and Twitter (be sure to include #Sign4Peace when doing so). The signed petition will then be delivered to the U.N. to coincide with the presentation of the Palestinians’ proposal. Please raise your collective voice and join with IAN, JCRC-NY and several Federations, JCRCs, agencies and organizations that have signed on to co-sponsor this cause to promote bilateral negotiations so that Israelis and Palestinians may live as neighbors in peace.

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Join the JCPA’s Food Stamp Challenge

When you take the Food Stamp Challenge, you will join hundreds of others across the country, including religious leaders, elected officials, and celebrities, to build the public and political will to end hunger in the United States. It is an opportunity to learn more and ensure the SNAP (food stamps) program, and other feeding programs, are protected.

Getting involved is easy.  You can register online to take the Fighting Poverty with Faith Food Stamp Challenge and live for 1 week on the average food stamp allotment, which is $31.50 for the week and approximately $1.50 per meal.

We’re also encouraging you, your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues to extend your involvement by donating the equivalent of a week, month, or year’s worth of food stamps ($31.50, $126.00, or $1638.00, respectively) to support the JCPA’s Confronting Poverty campaign and anti-poverty advocacy.

Leaders and community members across the country are taking the Food Stamp Challenge to  better understand the food stamp program (formally called SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the challenges of eating well on SNAP,  and to highlight the continued need for and importance of feeding programs to alleviate hunger in the United States.

Materials for promoting the Food Stamp Challenge, as well as planning community events like a Fighting Poverty with Faith Oxfam Hunger Banquet or a screening of the documentary Food Stamped, are available on the Fighting Poverty with Faith website.

For more information, please contact Elana Fox, JCPA Poverty Campaign Coordinator, at efox@thejcpa.org or 202-212-6037.

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Civility During the High Holy Days and the New Year

The JCPA has distributed study, text, and sermonic materials on civility to thousands of Jewish leaders for use during the upcoming holidays and New Year.  

“Increasingly, conversations are giving way to diatribe. We can do better,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow in a statement on the materials.  “We hope that these materials will be used as a resource by synagogues, rabbis, schools, and throughout the Jewish community to help build understanding about the Jewish value of civil discourse.  Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are times for self reflection, a time when confessional prayers and study help us to focus on issues of listening and speech. It is a perfect opportunity to evaluate just how we have used our power of speech and how we might choose our words in ways that engender greater cohesiveness and mutual respect.”

Prepared by a group of leading rabbis and scholars led by Rabbi Amy Eilberg, the materials are part of a commitment made in a 2010 JCPA resolution to “educate our community about the rich sources in our tradition that embrace civility as an ethical and moral duty and that warn of the consequences of incivility.  

Serving on the Working Group on Sacred Texts, part of the JCPA’s Campaign for Civility which Eilberg chairs, are Dr. Erica Brown, Prof. Amy-Jill Levine, Rabbi Sheldon Lewis, Rabbi Vivie Mayer, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Rabbi David Teutsch, and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.  

The materials can be found on the “Jewish Text and Learning” link of the JCPA’s civility website.  In addition to sample sermons given by rabbis who participated in San Francisco’s Year of Civil Discourse and study sheets for holidays, the resources also include a Jewish text resource that delves into “Tochecha”/rebuke, respectful disagreement, principles of dialogue, self-reflection, a sacred model of conflict, multiplicity of truths, and the pursuit of peace/reconciliation.

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Take the Food Stamp Challenge

The JCPA is co-sponsoring the 2011 Fighting Poverty with Faith mobilization, “Working Together to End Hunger,” and we invite you to join us by participating in a Food Stamp Challenge from Thursday, October 27th through Thursday, November 3rd. Fighting Poverty with Faith is an annual, interfaith, anti-poverty mobilization that brings together over 50 national faith-based organization to address root causes of poverty, with the goal of halving domestic poverty between 2010 and 2020.

There are 3 easy ways to get involved:

1.    Register to take the Fighting Poverty with Faith Food Stamp Challenge. It is a challenge to live for 1 week on the average food stamp allotment, which is $31.50 for the week and approximately $1.50 per meal. Leaders and community members across the country are taking the Food Stamp Challenge to  better understand the food stamp program (formally called SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the challenges of eating well on SNAP,  and to highlight the continued need for and importance of feeding programs to alleviate hunger in the United States.

2.    Encourage your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues to get further involved by taking the JCPA’s symbolic Food Stamp Challenge and donating the equivalent of a week, month, or year’s worth of food stamps ($31.50, $126.00, or $1638.00, respectively) to support the JCPA’s Confronting Poverty campaign and anti-poverty advocacy. Stay tuned for more information about the JCPA’s symbolic Food Stamp Challenge!

3.    Ask your member of Congress to join you in taking the Food Stamp Challenge from October 27-November 3. Contact Elyssa Koidin (ekoidin@thejcpa.org) for a copy of the formal invitation to members of Congress, and ideas for encouraging your Member to participate.

It’s easy for anyone to participate in the Fighting Poverty with Faith Food Stamp Challenge, and we encourage you to get your community even more involved by planning a community-wide event to highlight Fighting Poverty with Faith and highlighting your Challenge in local media materials on social networks including Facebook and Twitter. Materials for promoting the Food Stamp Challenge, as well as planning community events like a Fighting Poverty with Faith Oxfam Hunger Banquet or a screening of the documentary Food Stamped, are available on the Fighting Poverty with Faith website.

For more information, please contact Elana Fox, JCPA Poverty Campaign Coordinator, at efox@thejcpa.org or 202-212-6037.

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Join the 55,000 Others Against UDI

In just a few short weeks, a potential Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) is expected at the UN, and already over 55,000 individuals have raised their voice with the Israel Action Network (IAN) and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) to oppose it in an online petition. Please help IAN and JCRC-NY reach even higher numbers by circulating this petition in your communities through email, Facebook and Twitter (be sure to include #Sign4Peace when doing so). The signed petition, which is part of a major grassroots campaign to reject UDI and promote bilateral negotiations, will be presented to the U.N. as part of a larger community relations and media strategy in late September. We also invite you to have your agency co-sponsor the petition by contacting IAN directly.

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Help Free Alan Gross

We need your help to release Alan Gross.

Alan Gross, a resident of Potomac Maryland, was arrested in Cuba in December 2009 while on a humanitarian mission to help the small Jewish community there improve their internet access and to create an intranet for them.  He has been incarcerated ever since, languishing in prison for over a year before being convicted by a Cuban court of "actions against the integrity of the State," and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He subsequently appealed his sentence to the Cuban Supreme Court and the court reaffirmed the sentence, exhausting all of Alan’s legal remedies. His only avenue left is commutation of his sentence by Raul Castro, President of Cuba.

Alan and his supporters have fervently rejected all accusations that he did anything, or intended to do anything, to harm the Cuban government.  Quite to the contrary, his work in Cuba was only to help to improve the Cuban Jewish community's ability to use the internet. The President of the United States, senior Administration officials, Members of Congress, national leaders, and newspaper editorials have all called for his immediate release.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington has organized a petition urging Alan’s immediate release on humanitarian grounds.  Since his incarceration, Alan’s eldest daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer and undergone a double mastectomy, his 89-year old mother is suffering from inoperable cancer, and his wife Judy has undergone surgery for an undisclosed medical issue. Alan has lost approximately 100 pounds since his arrest and is suffering from several ailments.

Sign the Washington JCRC’s petition for the release of Alan Gross

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IAN in Minnesota

As part of the Israel Action Network’s (IAN) continued grassroots efforts to mobilize the North American Jewish communities around issues of delegitimization, IAN held its second community consultation today, in St. Paul, Minnesota. The conference, in partnership with the JCRC of Minnesota and the Dakotas, hosted more than 50 participants for a half-day event focused on understanding the implications of assaults made on Israel’s legitimacy as it relates to a potential Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) at the U.N. this fall.

Moderated by IAN’s Deputy Managing Director, David Dabscheck and Associate Managing Director, Julie Bernstein, the presentation examined the challenges UDI poses for Israel and North American Jewry with insight from Shahar Arielli, Deputy Consul of Israel to the Midwest. The session also included an interactive dialogue with Ethan Felson, Vice President of the JCPA, on the importance of working in tandem with Christian leaders from influential sectors such as Protestant denominations. The workshop concluded with a call to action from Steve Hunegs and Jacob Millner from the JCRC of Minnesota and the Dakota and IAN staff, who highlighted the ways in which IAN will continue to support communities around UDI and beyond.

Click here to join the over 44,000 others who have signed the IAN and JCRC-NY petition against UDI

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Super Committee Legislative Update

On August 25th, the JCPA held a conference call with CRC directors in the eleven states that have Senators or Representatives on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction cuts by Thanksgiving. We are working closely with these CRCs to come up with a plan to advocate on behalf of important human needs programs that are at a risk of being cut. We discussed setting up meetings with the members of the Committee, placing op-eds, and coming up with alternative funding sources that could save money and protect programs that benefit vulnerable communities. We will keep the wider community updated through our View from the Capitol legislative updates. If you live in one of the districts or states where there is a Committee member and would like to be involved in this effort, please contact Jared Feldman.


To sign up for “View from the Capitol”, e-mail ekoidin@thejcpa.org

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Update on Israel with Danny Ayalon

As September and a potential Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) nears, the Israel Action Network (IAN) ramped up efforts to aid communities in efforts surrounding UDI. Last week, IAN hosted a teleconference with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, who urged Federations and JCPA Member Agencies to join together with allies in the general community to help influence key government and consular figures ahead of the U.N. vote. Ayalon advocated for bilateral negotiations, saying, “A vote for this capricious Palestinian move is against all of the contracts and agreements we’ve signed with the Palestinians, which talk about concluding the conflict only in a bilateral way, only around the negotiating table, and not turning to any third party or changing the status of negotiations unilaterally,” he said. “It will only further destabilize a very sensitive and fractured situation. What they’re doing is absolutely wrong and is a way for them to continue in a greater campaign of hatred and delegitimization against Israel.”

The call, moderated by IAN chair David Sherman, also included Haim Waxman, Israel’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Shlomi Kofman, Deputy Consul General of Israel in New York who answered questions on UDI and Durban III.
 
Looking for additional ways to help counter UDI? In just under three weeks, IAN and JCRC-NY have collected over 44,000 signatures in an online petition opposing a unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood. Help us achieve our goal of at least 100,000 signatures before it is presented to the U.N. in September by circulating the petition with your communities and friends through email, Facebook and Twitter (be sure to include #Sign4Peace when doing so!).

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Food Stamped

Fighting Poverty with Faith – co-sponsored by the JCPA, Catholic Charities and the National Council of Churches and endorsed by over 50 national faith-based organizations – is building a nationwide, interfaith movement to cut domestic poverty in half by 2020. The annual Fighting Poverty with Faith mobilization focuses on addressing a root cause of poverty; this year, the theme is “Working Together to End Hunger” and will run from October 27-November 6, 2011.

Fighting Poverty with Faith encourages local communities to plan community-wide, preferably interfaith, events and actions during the week-long mobilization to both educate the community and elected officials about the issue of hunger and advocate for the protection of SNAP (food stamps) from funding cuts and structural changes.

An easy Fighting Poverty with Faith event to plan for your community is a screening of the documentary film, “Food Stamped.” Food Stamped is an informative and humorous documentary film following a couple as they attempt to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet on a food stamp budget. Through their adventures they consult with members of Congress, food justice organizations, nutrition experts, and people living on food stamps to take a deep look at America’s broken food system. The film is a great event on its own, and can serve as a platform for a panel discussion, Fighting Poverty with Faith advocacy, and other continued anti-hunger actions.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Food Stamped to screen as a Fighting Poverty with Faith event, first register your event on the Fighting Poverty with Faith website. When your registration is successfully completed, you will be directed to a webpage with directions for purchasing the film at the reduced rate of $150.

If you have any questions about the film, please contact Elana Fox, Poverty Campaign Coordinator at efox@thejcpa.org or 202-212-6037.

Click here to watch the trailer for Food Stamped.

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Violence in Israel

Israel is facing a number of security concerns after a terrorist attack that killed 8 last week and a resumption of rocket fire from Gaza. The terrorists responsible for the attack are thought to have come from Gaza through Egyptian controlled Sinai. Since the end of the Mubarak government, Egypt has eased security along its border with Gaza. In a statement condemning the attacks and expressing condolences for the victims, the JCPA called on Egypt to do more to ensure that the Sinai does not continue to be a launching ground for terrorist attacks against Israel.

You can read the JCPA’s complete statement here.

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JCPA Debunks Palestinian Christian Myth

In a groundbreaking report, the JCPA exposes a common myth used to slander Israel.  We are often told that Israel’s policies are causing a mass exodus of Palestinian Christians.  

However, the JCPA report reveals, the Palestinian Christian population has grown in both Israel and in the West Bank – and has growing been since 1967.  This flies in the face of a misinformation campaign that has been used by anti-Israel groups to add “urgency” to their criticism of Israeli policies.

The report documents repeated instances of data being used, often with great distortion, to pin a Christian exodus on Israel.  The data are misleading.  They often over-report the population prior to Israel’s creation, sometimes by more than 200%.   They underreported the current population, sometimes by comparing the entire region in 1948 with smaller areas today.   The West Bank Christian population dropped under Jordanian rule but has increased since 1967, when it came under Israeli and later Palestinian Authority control.  The Christian population in Israel proper has increased even more dramatically – in some years outpacing Jewish growth.  This, of course, stands in stark contrast with surrounding countries in which the decrease is real.  The report also exposes a stunning flaw in another common method of expressing a Christian population decline.  Palestinian Christian activists have frequently stated that their population should have grown at 2% annually, but emigration related to Israeli policy.  However, the average growth worldwide today is almost half that.  Had the U.S. grown at 2%, since 1948, our census would have shown a 510 million instead of 310 million.  


The JCPA Background Paper on Palestinian Christians can be read here

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Super Committee

The next stage of the deficit reduction debate moved forward last week when House of Representatives and Senate leadership named their appointees to the “Super Committee.” The committee is a 12-member bi-partisan, bi-cameral committee set up by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (passed at the beginning of the month as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling) and charged with finding an additional $1.5 trillion in debt savings over the next ten years. The Committee has until November 23rd to submit a plan to Congress that includes at least $1.2 trillion in savings. Next both the House and the Senate must vote on the deficit reduction plan by December 23rd, 2011. If any of these steps fail to take place, “triggers” will go into effect, causing as much as $1.2 trillion in across the board cuts (effecting both defense and non-defense spending) starting January 2013. Human needs programs important to the Jewish community, like Medicaid and SNAP, face deep cuts, as does the foreign relations budget. JCPA is putting together a national coalition of Jewish groups to form a working group who will work with the committee to help preserve these vital programs.

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IAN Update

As part of an ongoing strategy to help communities plan for challenges regarding UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence for a Palestinian State), Israel Action Network (IAN) will host a conference call on Wednesday, August 17th with Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. Ayalon will confer with Federation and CRC leaders to provide the most up-to-date developments and strategy surrounding UDI, which is now slated to be introduced at the United Nations on September 20. Israel Action Network, a joint initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America and Jewish Council for Public Affairs, convened this call as part of a multi-tiered approach supporting two states for two people through direct negotiations, not UDI. Furthering this goal, IAN launched an online petition with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) that has collected over 25,000 signatures and counting from individuals and organizations around the world. Please show your support for bilateral negotiations by circulating this important effort with your communities, coalitions, families and friends through email, Facebook and Twitter (be sure to use the hashtag #Sign4Peace on Twitter) before it is presented to the U.N. in September.

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Food Stamp Challenge

The JCPA is co-sponsoring the 2011 Fighting Poverty with Faith mobilization, “Working Together to End Hunger,” and we invite you to join us by participating in a Food Stamp Challenge from Thursday, October 27th through Thursday, November 3rd. Fighting Poverty with Faith is an annual, interfaith, anti-poverty mobilization that brings together over 50 national faith-based organization to address root causes of poverty, with the goal of halving domestic poverty between 2010 and 2020.

What is a Food Stamp Challenge? It is a challenge to live for 1 week on the average food stamp allotment, which is $31.50 for the week and approximately $1.50 per meal. Leaders and community members across the country are taking the Food Stamp Challenge to  better understand the food stamp program (formally called SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the challenges of eating well on SNAP,  and to highlight the continued need for and importance of feeding programs to alleviate hunger in the United States.

Anyone can participate in the Fighting Poverty with Faith Food Stamp Challenge, and we encourage you to get your community even more involved by planning a community-wide event to highlight Fighting Poverty with Faith, community members participating in the Challenge, and to encourage even more people to get involved and advocate to protect SNAP. Materials for promoting the Food Stamp Challenge, as well as planning community events like a Fighting Poverty with Faith Oxfam Hunger Banquet or a screening of the documentary Food Stamped, are available on the Fighting Poverty with Faith website.

For more information, please contact Elana Fox, JCPA Poverty Campaign Coordinator, at efox@thejcpa.org or 202-212-6037.

Register to participate in the Food Stamp Challenge

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UDI Petition

This September, the United Nations General Assembly may hold a vote on whether or not to endorse a unilaterally declared Palestinian state. In an effort to respond to the potential implications of such a situation, the Israel Action Network (IAN), together with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY), launched an online petition as part of a major grassroots campaign to reject UDI and promote bilateral negotiations. The first week alone garnered over 10,000 signatures from individuals and key organizations across America who signed on to oppose UDI. If you haven’t done so already, please take action and join IAN and JCRC-NY by signing and circulating this petition with your communities, various coalitions and families and friends through email, Facebook and Twitter (be sure to use the hashtag #Sign4Peace on Twitter). We also invite you to have your agency co-sponsor the petition by contacting IAN directly. The signed petition will then be presented to the U.N. in September as part of a wide-reaching continental press strategy.

To sign the petition, click here.

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Rally to Stop Unfolding Genocide in Sudan

A new genocide has been unfolding in Sudan this summer. The civilian populations in the Nuba Mountains region and South Kordofan have been particularly targeted. Thousands have been forced to flee their homes as the Sudanese government fires artillery at their villages and mines make the land unlivable. Violence has even been escalating, once again, in Darfur, where humanitarian organizations have been unable to access those needing help. With violence escalating and the Sudanese government increasingly standing in the way of aid and humanitarian relief groups, the international community has been slow to respond.

Last Friday, JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow joined human rights activists and members of the Nuba Diaspora community in New York City for a rally outside the UN. The speakers asked the UN and international community to not forget about the scores of civilians being murdered by Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who was charged with genocide by the International Criminal Court last summer. In his speech, Rabbi Gutow, who also serves on the board of the Save Darfur Coalition/Genocide Intervention Network, compared al-Bashir to Cain, who tried to hide the murder of his brother Abel from God in the book of Genesis. But just as the blood of Abel cried out to God from the ground, so too does the blood of our brothers and sisters cry out to us from Sudan, said Rabbi Gutow.

Also speaking at the rally was Bishop Andudu Adam Elanil from Kadugli, the main town in South Korodfan that has been experiencing violence. Before speaking at the rally, Bishop Andudu gave a briefing at the UN on the violence in South Kordofan. He testified before Congress last week as well.

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Durban III

This September, “Durban III” will convene in New York. This one-day event aims to “commemorate” the 2001 Durban Conference, a supposed anti-racism meeting that turned into a mass display of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment. The Geneva-based rights group, UN Watch, is calling upon EU states and democracies worldwide to refrain from sending delegations to participate, and last week, the Czech Republic became the first European country to do so. They were soon followed by Italy and the Netherlands, standing in unison with the US, Israel and Canada. The Israel Action Network (IAN) is monitoring this situation closely and according to Czech news sources, the Czech government was worried there would be "unacceptable statements with anti-Jewish connotations.” As September nears, it is imperative to note that this flawed UN process, which exhibits bias and antipathy toward Israel, only serves to divert us from a much more important objective: restoring peace and fighting racism and all forms of bigotry.

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New Car Efficiency Standards

America’s cars are about to run a little cleaner, which is good news for our environment and our national security. Last week, President Obama announced new fuel efficiency standards for cars. Starting with the 2017 year models, auto makers will now need an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon for all cars by 2025, up from the current average of 27 mpg. The environmental impacts will be noticeable. Cleaner burning engines will mean fewer greenhouse gasses being released into the air. The JCPA and the Coalition on Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) have been advocating for a reduction in fossil fuel use as one of the best ways to avoid dangerous climate change and global warming. All of this can be achieved through existing technology including lighter materials and cleaner combustion engines. According to the EPA, more efficient cars will mean we will be importing 1 billion fewer barrels of oil a year by 2025. That will mean less money going to unfriendly oil producing states - an important national security concern. The JCPA and COEJL applauded the announcement and will continue to work with the government to find the best ways to protect our environment and keep money away from those who would do us harm.

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Next Step: Recovery

Both chambers of Congress passed (269-161 in the House of Representatives and 74-26 in the Senate) the compromise debt ceiling/deficit reduction legislation, designed to prevent economic collapse. President Obama signed the bill into law earlier today. This hotly debated piece of legislation attempts to lower our country’s deficit while also raising the debt ceiling in two stages. The first stage allows the debt ceiling to be raised to as much as $2.4 trillion into 2013. $400 billion is available immediately and the rest is subject to Congressional vote of disapproval in coming months. The legislation creates between $900 billion-$1 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years through caps on discretionary programs. There are no immediate cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security, but these programs are susceptible to reductions in the future.

A 12-member joint bi-partisan committee is set up to make $1.5 trillion in additional deficit cuts. The committee may consider any part of the budget for their plan—including both tax reform and entitlement changes. This committee must produce a proposal by Thanksgiving and Congress must consider it by Christmas in order to avoid, deep, automatic, across-the-board spending cuts from taking effect January 1st, 2013. Members to the committee are expected to be named in the coming weeks.

Elyssa Koidin, Senior Policy Associate, will be sending out a more detailed legislative update on Wednesday. To be included in those updates please email Elyssa.

 

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Help Stop Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a crime that harms millions of victims worldwide.  The JCPA believes that the demand for and the apparatus that facilitates the movement of modern-day slaves around the world must be eliminated.  In addition, there is a continuing need for public education as well as national and international advocacy to combat trafficking.

The 2011 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act was recently introduced into the Senate. This bi-partisan bill is the core of American anti-trafficking legislation. We need you to contact your Senators and Congressmen today to ask them to co-sponsor this legislation and support its reauthorization.

To fight the scourge of human trafficking, the JCPA has partnered with the RAC, NCJW, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, ATEST, and JCRCs from across the country.  Our goal is to educate the community about the horrors of labor and slave trafficking, and to create an educational toolkit to raise awareness and put an end to human trafficking.  

Millions of people live today as slaves, trapped in endless cycles of debt bondage, violence, and exploitation. Slavery exists in our own communities, in the supply chains of the products we buy every day, and around the world.

Every year, Jews sit around the Seder table and give thanks that we are no longer slaves. Our memory of slavery and liberation also compels us to work to ensure that no one else in the world experiences the degradation of slavery.

Faced with a problem this vast, we may feel helpless, but we're not. Today, you can take action to ensure that the American government continues to use its resources to protect victims of slavery, prosecute traffickers, and prevent the root causes of slavery.

Additionally, if you would like to be involved in this effort, and join our coalition, please email Marc Schlesinger at MSchlesinger@thejcpa.org.

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Hyman Bookbinder—Myth and Man

Veteran Jewish leader Hyman Bookbinder, affectionately known as Bookie, passed away on July 21, 2011 at the age of 95.  He was a close friend and mentor of JCPA president, Rabbi Steve Gutow who shares his reflections below.  Bookie won the JCPA’s most coveted award the Chernin Award for exemplifying social justice in 1994.

Who was Hyman Bookbinder? So many descriptions are surfacing that one may not know how to sift through the words and find the essence. This giant of a Jewish presence touched each of us who knew him in a myriad of ways. He was not simple and his reach and reflections are as varied as the number of us who had a chance to feel his essence.

To me, Bookie was a very human man, not perfect but remarkable. He cared for everyone whom he encountered on the planet, Jewish and non-Jewish, but with a special concern for all who suffered oppression or from poverty. Each person he could touch and help-- he touched and helped. Boundaries were not easily drawn for Bookie.  He saw our goal as human beings as sentient vehicles through which we could lessen the suffering of others and enhance the fullness of the world. He wanted to make life better for the least among us and he never wavered from that pursuit. Before I knew him well, I remember listening to him. He was the American Jewish Committee’s Washington representative, a ‘must hear’ for any Jewish visitor to the nation’s capital. It was the eighties and I recall the deep passion that resonated as he spoke to our  Jewish community delegation from Dallas.  Bookie knew that we who were visiting D.C. had work to do, Congress members to convince, a nation to make better. Bookie was a liberal, a Democrat, and a Jew—and in his definitions of self, all were synthesized and integrated into making him whole.

Whether Bookie was being arrested for protesting some social injustice in the world, leading the Jewish Dukakis effort at the Democratic convention in Atlanta, or guiding younger friends through the trials of their journeys toward leadership, he was an original. I became his friend when I was chosen to be the founding executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council—an organization in which his spirit as a Jew, as a Democrat, and as fully realized human came to the fore. The NJDC offered Bookie a chance to give his heart and soul to a cause that connected all the strands of this very moral man.

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Unilateral Palestinian Statehood

By the end of this week, it is likely that the Palestinian leadership will formally request recognition of a unilaterally declared state (UDI) at the UN General Assembly in September. The Israel Action Network (IAN), a project of the Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with the JCPA, is in the process of putting together a comprehensive plan for community actions leading up to, during and following the potential Palestinian UDI vote. This strategic framework, set to go out next week, will arm communities with key background information, talking points, consulate contacts for targeted countries and suggested reading material to fully grasp this continually evolving situation.

It is therefore crucial at this time to reaffirm to Congress how detrimental a UDI would be for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Show your appreciation to the U.S. House and Senate, who voted last week to reject the Palestinian push to bypass negotiations, by writing to your members of Congress  and thank them for their support for a negotiated peace. 


Click here to let Congress know their support of Israel is appreciated

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Protecting Medicaid

As part of the Congressional debt and deficit negotiations, Medicaid--which provides healthcare for millions of children, people with disabilities, seniors and the poor-- could be capped or restructured to limit coverage.  Two proposals, a funding cap or block grant, are being discussed.  Either proposal would decrease resources for Medicaid and force states, which administer the program, to either decrease healthcare services offered or limit program eligibility. This will mean severe consequences not only for the millions of individuals reliant on Medicaid for healthcare, but for our communities. Next Thursday at 2 pm, the JCPA will be hosting a call explaining the threats to Medicaid and how it will affect your local community.

Protecting this effective and important program will require a local effort across the country. The JCPA is working in conjunction with the Jewish Federations of North America to develop a toolkit with activism resources and meaningful engagement opportunities.   Please visit www.jewishpublicaffairs.org/Medicaid to learn how you and your community can make a difference. We have also created an action page to let Congress know how important Medicaid is.

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Say NO to Anti-Semitism at the UN

On June 29, Richard Falk, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian territories, posted a deeply anti-Semitic and anti-American cartoon on his blog. The cartoon depicts a dog urinating on a woman symbolizing justice, and devouring a dead body with blood and bones spewing out of its mouth. The dog is shown in a garment marked “USA” and wearing a Jewish yarmulke/kippah with a Star of David. Falk initially denied posting the cartoon on his blog. Falk then deleted the cartoon but expressed that he “didn’t realize that it could be viewed as anti-Semitic.” Eventually, Falk issued an apology.

Falk has a history of problematic statements that have no place at the United Nations. This latest instance is simply the last in a series and Falk should resign from his post.  Additionally, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, should speak out against Falk and his most recent actions. While Pillay cannot depose Falk of his position, she does set the tone for the Human Rights Council and her condemnation is warranted.   

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs calls on Commissioner Pillay to join U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council Eileen Danahoe, in calling on Mr. Falk to resign from his post. His continued presence at the United Nations is, as Ambassador Donahoe stated, “a blight on the U.N. system.”

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Help Stop the Flotilla - Thank Greece

Several boats taking part in the planned Flotilla to Gaza, including the US boat "The Audacity of Hope," were barred from leaving a Greek port on July 1st by the Greek coast guard.  The captain of "The Audacity of Hope" was briefly arrested by Greek officials for violating orders and Flotilla participants rejected a Greek offer to transport all humanitarian aid through proper, legal channels. These actions adhere to Israel’s legally sanctioned maritime blockade off the coast of the Gaza Strip, which aims to block attempts to smuggle weapons to terrorists and deter further missile attacks into southern Israel from Gaza.

The Israel Action Network, a project of The Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, would like to thank the Greek government for its decision to prohibit the departure of Flotilla ships to Gaza. The Greek government displayed great leadership and a genuine commitment towards achieving a peaceful solution that meets the needs of both Palestinians and Israelis alike. In order to show our solidarity with the people of Israel and commend the nation of Greece for its efforts, we ask you to please take a few minutes to thank the Greek Ambassador to the U.S. for his country's role in advancing peace.
You can take action and thank Greece here

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Teaming Up To Protect Medicaid

As part of the Congressional  debt and deficit negotiations, Medicaid, which millions of children, adults with disabilities and older Americans rely on for healthcare, could be capped or restructured to limit coverage.  Two proposals, a funding cap or block grant, are being discussed.  Either proposal would decrease resources for Medicaid and force states, which administer the program, to either decrease healthcare services offered or limit program eligibility.

The JCPA is working in conjunction with the Jewish Federations of North America to develop a toolkit with activism resources and meaningful engagement opportunities.   Please visit www.jewishpublicaffairs.org/Medicaid to learn how you and your community can make a difference.  

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Thousands Join "What Gilad Missed"

Tens of thousands of individuals joined our recent “What Gilad Missed” campaign to raise awareness about Gilad Shalit’s continued captivity by Hamas terrorists.  With your help and involvement, we were able to share Gilad’s story and introduce it to many who were unfamiliar with his captivity. In the past week alone, there were over 32,000 interactions from almost 7,000 individuals on Facebook.  The What Gilad Missed video and website were seen almost 10,000 times. The video and campaign were featured in communities around the country. In Pittsburgh, for instance, hundreds of postcards with Gilad’s story were handed out at a screening of the What Gilad Missed video. The video was shown in conjunction with “Family in Captivity”, a documentary on the Shalit family.   Join us on the What Gilad Missed Facebook page to share your communities’ experiences with this campaign.


Visit www.whatgiladmissed.com for actions, resources, and to see what’s been said

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What Gilad Missed

On June 25, 2006, Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas in a cross border raid. Since then, Gilad has been held in isolation and without access to humanitarian organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); a clear violation of his rights. That was five years ago. Five years without being able to contact his family. Five years without freedom.

To mark this unfortunate anniversary and highlight how long Gilad has been gone, the JCPA launched our “What Gilad Missed” campaign at www.WhatGiladMissed.org. There you can watch a video that captures some of the many events and figures that Gilad has missed, from Barack Obama and Lady Gaga to the iPhone and Arab Spring. There are also links to write a letter of support to his family and to ask the UN to insist that the ICRC have access to Gilad.

As The Forward recently pointed out, the importance of freeing Gilad has unified the Jewish community. On Twitter, #WhatGiladMissed became a popular trend with individuals, Jewish organizations, and even the Israeli Embassy of Israel to the United States joining us in emphasizing how much has happened since Gilad has last been free. On the Huffington Post, Rabbi Gutow’s blog about What Gilad Missed was a featured story on the Huffington Post World homepage. And on Facebook, hundreds of people have visited and become fans of the What Gilad Missed page.

WhatGiladMissed.org and the entire campaign will continue until Hamas finally let’s Gilad go free.

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Keeping Our Focus on Sudan

The Jewish community’s response to the genocide in Darfur these past years has been impressive. From disproportionately large participation in the mass gatherings in Washington, DC and New York City, drawing especially young people from across our religious spectrum, to organizing interfaith coalitions and other programmatic expressions, we in the Jewish community took a leadership role nationally and locally in raising consciousness and focusing the attention of policymakers on this tragedy.

It is difficult to sustain intensive effort over a long period of time and Darfur has receded from the headlines. Clearly, as a result, there has been a diminution in the Jewish community’s involvement on the issue. The sad reality, however, is that the situation in Sudan has deteriorated significantly in recent months. See this editorial from The New Republic. At the JCPA, we believe it is imperative that we dig deep and find the time and resources to become reenergized around the issue of Sudan and the human rights crisis taking place there.

The Genocide Intervention Network/Save Darfur Coalition has set up 1-800-GENOCIDE. We encourage you to call and send a message to members of Congress and the President about the importance of strong U.S. leadership in addressing the humanitarian challenges in Sudan. The President should be asked to impose serious consequences on the government of Sudan, freeze assets of its leaders and their businesses, and expand war crimes investigations.

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Black-Jewish Mission to Detroit Kicks Off

The JCPA’s African American/Jewish Community Leaders Mission to Detroit kicked off yesterday and has already had some great events. Opening the mission, JCPA Chair Dr. Conrad Giles noted that participants had come from every time zone, because poverty is not an isolated problem, but affects us everywhere. The participants, representing Jewish and African American communities from Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Nashville, Providence, and Silicon Valley, have come together in Detroit, where the problems of poverty are so prevalent, to explore how interfaith and interracial partnerships can help. Today’s first stop was Focus: HOPE, a program that offers job training, education, child care, food assistance and more to underserved neighborhoods. Later, they visited Earthworks Urban Farm, where 90 percent of the food grown goes to a soup kitchen, and took part in the Heidelberg Project, a program that involves young artists in beautifying their neighborhood. 

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National Call in Day for Sudan

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been displaced in recent months as violence in Sudan mars next month’s planned independence for Southern Sudan. Last year’s referendum for independence in Southern Sudan was one of the conditions of a peace agreement that ended decades of civil war between the North and South. That peace is now threatened by renewed violence in border areas, and the many thousands of refugees forced to flee pose a serious humanitarian problem

Today, JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow and members of the JCPA leadership met with Samantha Power, advisor to President Obama, to express our concerns about the increase in violence. Rabbi Gutow serves as a board member for The Genocide Intervention Network/Save Darfur Coalition which is hosting a day of action tomorrow. We urge you to join us by calling 1-800-GENOCIDE Wednesday to ask the White House to impose serious consequences on the Government of Sudan.

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Toolkit for Protecting Medicaid

The House-passed budget for 2012 proposes to block grant and severely reduce funding for Medicaid, a proposal that could lead to major cuts in the program and affect millions of Americans who rely on this program for their medical needs. Cuts to Medicaid have been part of the discussion as House and Senate leadership negotiate with the White House on a debt ceiling and deficit reduction proposal. Unfortunately much of the media and political attention has been on Medicare. While we believe Medicare is an important program, we feel the profile needs to be raised on Medicaid, and elected officials need to be made aware of how important Medicaid funding is to our local communities. The JCPA, in partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America, has put together this toolkit to assist JCRCs in drawing attention to Medicaid. It includes background information, sample action alerts, op-eds, and a how-to guide on holding a site visit. We encourage you to use these materials while Members of Congress are in their home districts for the Fourth of July recess and in the month that follows.

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Five Years of Captivity for Gilad Shalit

Saturday will mark an inauspicious anniversary. Five years ago, 19 year old Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas. Since then, he has been held without access to the Red Cross or Israeli officials. In fact, other than a few letters, an audio recording, and a single video, there has been no word from Gilad during his five years in captivity. Such treatment of a prisoner is illegal and immoral; for five years, Israel, the US, the Red Cross, and others have been campaigning for Gilad’s return. In the coming days, to highlight just how long Gilad has been hidden from the world by Hamas, the JCPA will launch a campaign and movie called “What Gilad Missed.” Dictators have fallen, babies have been born, bin Laden was killed, and the world was introduced to Lady Gaga. So many changes, all while Gilad’s health and whereabouts remain uncertain. More details will be coming, and we encourage you to help call attention to Gilad’s ongoing captivity by telling us #WhatGiladMissed on Twitter.

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