The Philadelphia Jewish Voice's Networking Central column features different groups which make a difference in our community.
This year, I have been fortunate enough to participate in the Center for Progressive Leadership's 2011 Pennsylvania Political Leaders Fellowship program. Over the coming months, I hope to share some of the lessons that I have learned, but first I would like to give you an opportunity to learn about CPL.
The Pennsylvania Political Leaders Fellowship is a nine-month, part-time leadership development program for a select group of organizational leaders, future candidates, community organizers, and progressive activists from across the state.
The CPL Fellowship Class of 2011
Each fellow has his or her own unique experience, background, passion and vision, and I appreciate the chance to get to know them and learn from them. Some want to help protect the environment, others want to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, or mentor disadvantaged youths in their community, or strength public schools, etc. CPL does not tell people what kind of progressive change to be passionate about, but it help people get it touch with their own values, hone their message and learn the political skills necessary to bring about change.
The Center for Progressive Leadership is building local, state-based leadership institutes across the country to develop diverse progressive leaders that are the networks for progressive change. Through long-term investments in targeted recruitment, training, and mentorship, CPL is building the foundation for that change with thousands of new future candidates, political staff, and organizers taking leadership roles in their communities.
My training has taken me to Philadelphia, Reading, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. I have been forced to identify the values I stand for, relate those values to the progressive change I seek, and use effective messaging techniques to advance my values.
We are also learning fundraising skills, and I would like to pay back CPL for all I have learned by urging you to support the Center for Progressive Leadership.
Help CPL keep the program affordable to people who have a vision for change but lack the resources to make that vision a reality. CPL charges fellows a nominal $1,050 tuition for the nine-month, and even that is reduced via scholarships where appropriate. However, tuition only represents a small part of training costs, individual and group coaching, food and facilities.
CPL is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and counts on charitable contributions to make up the difference.
For our final weekend with CPL, we are organizing a fundraiser
Saturday, September 24, 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Ethical Society, 1906 South Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA
Keynote speaker: Former Lt.-Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D-MD)
The best part? Every donation will be matched dollar for dollar by a national donor.
Yesterday, Israeli President Shimon Peres started his 90th birthday celebration in the only way he knows: in style. The list of celebrities and politicians joining President Peres is long, and it includes President Bill Clinton, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Barbara Streisand and Robert De Niro.
Haaretz wrote about what President Clinton had to say to President Peres:
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton delivered his much awaited speech, telling Peres, "You are the world's social Einstein."
"You have tried to put together a unified theory of meaning to unite politics and philosophy and psychology and history and science and technology," he said. " Every one of us who has been blessed enough to know you... has been made a little bigger, a little stronger, and a little more optimistic that one day your theory will be real."
"On your 90th birthday, what we really celebrate, is your great gift to all of us. God bless you."
Following the jump are a excerpts from the interviews the press has been conducting with President Peres.
The National Jewish Democratic Council expressed concern over today's vote by House Republicans in support of its latest extreme anti-choice bill.
"With all the talk of broadening the GOP base, Republicans seem unable to resist taking extreme action on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives," said NJDC Executive Director Aaron Keyak. "By forcing a vote on a doomed and radically anti-choice bill, Republicans are once again alienating the vast majority of American Jews — including Jewish Republicans who have specifically urged the GOP to ease up on social issues."
On Friday, Time reported that the United States and Israel are coordinating closely on how best to target President Bashar al Assad's chemical weapons arsenals. Earlier this month, the U.S. placed F-16s and Patriot missile batteries in Jordan. In regards to the weapons placement, an Israeli official noted, "It's a clear, purposeful presence of a strike force near the border of Syria. I think it's a message, a clear message." The U.S. also installed Patriot batteries in Turkey last year.
Most importantly, though, Israeli officials told Time that the U.S. and Israel were planning for assorted scenarios where they could conceivably search and destroy all of Assad's 18 chemical weapons arsenals.
On Saturday, The Jewish Daily Forward's Nathan Guttman published an article on Samantha Power, President Obama's nominee for U.N. Ambassador, and her commitment to Israel. Guttman's piece opened with a story from 2009 in which Power is meeting with Israeli officials. In the middle of their discussion, she pulled out a picture of her son and described how her husband Cass Sustein is a descendent of the, "Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer, the 18th-century Jewish sage who is considered the greatest talmudic scholar of his time."
Guttman concluded that while this might partially explain Power's commitment to Israel, it is not the only reason. Former Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. Dan Arbel explains that for as long as he has known Power, her strong sentiment towards Israel has always been second nature. He states, "Her starting point has always been, 'How do we work together to overcome obstacles and to ensure that both the United States and Israel get out of these U.N. situations with the least damage?"
Guttman also discussed how Power dealt with almost every Israel-related issue at the U.N. during Ambassador Susan Rice's tenure. According to an Administration official, "She was involved in any brush fire at the United Nations. After [U.N. Ambassador] Susan Rice, she was the most influential person on U.N. issues."
In our conversation, she rejected utterly the notion that she had any animus toward Israel. She acknowledged that she had erred significantly in offering hypothetical comments that did not reflect how she felt. She said that opponents of President Obama had unfairly taken her disorganized comments further and characterized them as 'invade Israel' talk. She said that if she really believed that Israel could even be remotely accused of practicing genocide against the Palestinians, then the correct forum for her to express that view would have been somewhere in the 664 pages of her book, A Problem From Hell, wherein she details all the genocides of the twentieth century. She never even hints that Israel is guilty of such atrocity. She explained that the only time she has written about Israel was in a later book, Chasing the Flame, on slain UN Diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Mello. There she described his time in UNIFIL, and included a discussion of the Government of Israel's own findings on Sabra and Shatila.
To bolster her argument, she mentioned that her former Professor at Harvard, Alan Dershowitz, whom I consider to be Israel's most eloquent global champion, called her after A Problem from Hell was published, to applaud her for not remotely associating Israel with genocide, the way so many academic enemies had. I checked with my old friend, Professor Dershowitz, and he confirmed that he has warm feelings toward his former student, and considers her a moderate on Israel.
Listening to Power face-to-face and hearing her clarification set, amidst the visible hurt of being grouped together with Israel's detractors, I found her argument convincing. Power, the world's leading chronicler of genocide, is being dismissed as an enemy of the Jewish state based almost entirely on a fragment of a single interview lasting about two-and-a-half minutes. Most significantly, however we understand the meaning of her words in the unfortunate interview, they are utterly belied by her actions. She would later indeed become a senior adviser to the president of the United States, and not only would she never even remotely identify Israel as a genocidal power that needed to be stopped, but to the contrary, she would utilize her influence to advocate for military action against a genocidal Arab dictator, who is not only killing innocent Arab protestors, but is, along with Iran, one of Israel's most outspoken enemies.
Yesterday, we printed an article by David Streeter discussing a Tea Party fundraising appeal which characterizes the Internal Revenue Service as "Obama's Gestapo." Personally, I deplore political bias by the IRS, regardless of its direction. Nevertheless, making over-the-top comparisons to Nazis desecrates the memory of the Holocaust.
The IRS has not set out to exterminate the right-wing groups. The IRS was not threatening them with the loss to the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. The IRS was trying to determine whether their purpose was mostly political, which would make them ineligible for 501(c)4 Social Welfare Organization status.
Keep in mind that not being a 501(c)4 is not the end of the world. Even if they were judged as "too political" to form a 501(c)4, they could refile as 527 Political Action Committees. Both 501(c)4s and PACs can take unlimited contributions, so there is no difference there. The groups were not claiming to be charitable 501(c)3 groups, so there was no question of the donors getting a tax deduction for the contributions.
Neither 501(c)4s nor PACs pay taxes on the contributions they receive, so there was no question of the Tea Party groups having to pay anything regardless of their answers to these questions from the IRS.
So what is the difference between a Political Action Committee and a 501(c)4?
The basic difference is that while 501(c)4 can keep their donor list secret, PACs (but not "Super PACs") must disclose them.
In other words, the IRS (a.k.a. "Obama's Gestapo") was after disclosure, not blood or money. At worst, the Tea Party groups risked having to divulge the names of their backers. This isn't a case of persecuted groups being threatened physically or financially. This is a case of shadowy backers trying to influence the political process while keeping out of the light of day.
Focusing the IRS's attention on a particular political group was indeed wrong, but it was a wrong on the order of an administrative screw-up, not a wrong on the order of war crimes and genocide.
After the jump, more on what went wrong and what should be done about it.
Cyberbullying has become a widely discussed topic both inside and outside of schools, with anti-bullying legislation heading to the desks of people like Florida Governor Rick Scott after clearing the Florida House and Senate in April 2013. Other states are following suit, and Montana is currently the only state with no anti-bullying legislation on the books.
In today’s age of digital, with more adolescent exposure to television and Internet than ever before, it's not hard for children to find channels through which they can victimize their peers. Satellite packages alone come with 285 channels, stated Slackware, making it difficult to control what content our kids are exposed to. That leaves it up to parents and lawmakers to try to prevent cyberbullying.
Continuity Elusive at Top of Nation's No. 6 Community Ira Schwartz, departed abruptly in early May, marking the fourth time the federation has lost its top professional leader since the early 1990s. That's unusual among big-city federations, where successful executives often last decades....
Philadelphia's federation announced Schwartz's departure late on May 3, a Friday afternoon. A statement and story published in the federation-owned Jewish Exponent disclosed no details about why Schwartz was leaving, saying only that the separation was effective immediately.
This month we set a new world's record. By "we", I mean the world. The world set a new record and this is not the sort of accomplishment we should be proud of.
On May 9, 2013, the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million.
The NOAA has been recording CO2 levels at the Mauna Loa Observatory since 1956 and two things are clear: a natural annual variation of 5-10 PPM, and a steady increase from year to year.
By studying ancient air bubbles trapped in ice cores, scientists are able to determine CO2 levels much further back, and we can see how exception this period since the beginning of the industrial era has been.
In fact, according to researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the last time the Earth had so much CO2 in the atmosphere was during the Pliocene era over three million years ago.
Recent estimates suggest CO2 levels reached as much as 415 parts per million (ppm) during the Pliocene. With that came global average temperatures that eventually reached 3-4°C (5.4-7.2°F) higher than today's and as much as 10°C (18°F) warmer at the poles. Sea level ranged between 5 and 40 meters (16-131 feet) higher than today.
Of course, at the record breaking clip with which we are releasing carbon into the atmosphere breaking the 415 PPM mark will be no challenge indeed. According to the International Energy Agency, we will reach 650 PPM even if we stop burning coal and replace it with natural gas.
It is therefore appropriate that Ira Glass chose this week to devote his show This America Life to climate change.
After years of being stuck, the national conversation on climate change finally started to shift — just a little — last year, the hottest year on record in the U.S., with Hurricane Sandy flooding the New York subway, drought devastating Midwest farms, and California and Colorado on fire. Lots of people were wondering if global warming had finally arrived, here at home. This week, stories about this new reality.
Wednesday, May 1: A 2-year-old girl in Burkesville, Kentucky was shot and killed by her 5-year-old who was playing with his .22-caliber rifle, and also on Wednesday, a 6-year-old girl in Florida was shot by her 13-year-old brother.
Monday, May 6: A 13-year-old boy in Oakland Park, Florida shot his 6-year-old sister with a handgun.
Tuesday, May 7: A 3-year-old boy in Tampa, Florida fatally shot himself with his uncle's gun. Also, on Tuesday, a 5-year-old in Texas shot his 7-year-old brother.
Wednesday, May 8: 2-year-old boy in Corsicana, Texas fatally shoots himself in the head.
Friday, May 10: A 12-year-old boy in Camden, New Jersey is shot in the face by an 11-year-old friend.
Yesterday, Saturday, May 11, a five-year-old boy in Denton, Texas was shot in the head with a rifle by his eight-year-old friend.
Deaths of children this young are tragic and totally unnecessary. Trigger locks, biometric fingerprint ID safeties or simple gun vaults can and should be used to prevent unauthorized access to firearms.
As Steve Sheffey writes:
The real scandal in Washington is not the four brave Americans killed in Benghazi, but the thousands of Americans killed each year right here at home by handguns. Maybe the Republicans should hold hearings to find out why that is.
On Monday, Maine joined West Virginia, Colorado, Montana, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico and Hawaii in calling for an amendment to the United States Constitution on campaign finance. Maine's State House voted 111-33 with strong bipartisan support in favor of the measure while the Senate voted 25-9.
Polls indicate that 73% of Democrats and 71% of Republicans disagree with the Supreme Court's Citizen United ruling and want to keep corporate spending out of political campaigns.
To take effect, an amendment must gain the support of two-thirds of the House and the Senate and be ratified by 38 states.
ComedySportz players Jason Stockdale, Olivia Ciacci, Julia Frey and Matt Lydon competing for the Red Team.
— by David Dritsas
It may be cliché to say that laughter brings people together but if the cliché fits, well, I say you might as well wear it and wear it proudly.
When I was recently asked to write a an article for The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, I struggled a bit with what to say that didn't seem to be too much of a pitch for ComedySportz Philadelphia, the local improv comedy company I worked at for 12 years. But then I thought, "Talk about the community. That's a nice hook."
After all, the Jewish community has been a strong supporter of ComedySportz throughout its 20-year history, something for which both our Jewish and non-Jewish cast members and staff have been extremely grateful.
Hustler publisher Larry Flynt has "endorsed" disgraced former Governor Mark Sanford in this Tuesday's special election to fill the seat in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District previously held by Jim DeMint who resigned last year.
No one has done more to expose the sexual hypocrisy of traditional values in America today.... His open embrace of his mistress in the name of love, breaking his sacred marriage vows, was an act of bravery that has drawn my support.
They were wrong about the Republicans they told us to support who are leading the fight against gun control, wrong about President Obama and Israel, and wrong about Chuck Hagel. But don't hold your breaths waiting for apologies from the Emergency Committee for Israel, the Republican Jewish Coalition, Protect Our Heritage PAC, and like-minded right-wing organizations.
(JSPAN) The Jewish Social Policy Action Network strongly supports federal and Pennsylvania state
legislation as well as municipal ordinances designed to reduce the incidence of gun violence in our state and nation.
Each year more than 30,000 Americans die from senseless gun violence. Each day men, women and
children - mothers, brothers, sisters, children, family, neighbors, and friends - are taken from us as a
result of our inability to advance common-sense firearms regulations.
More after the jump including video of the 20/20 Special "If I Only Had A Gun"
On Wednesday, Oklahoma State House Majority Leader Dennis Johnson used the phrase "try to Jew me down" on the House floor. He offered an apology afterward that reportedly included the line "Jews run good small businesses, too." The Tulsa World reported:
In debating in favor of a bill that would repeal a 70-year-old ban on "loss-leader" selling, Johnson, a small business owner, said service and not price were the key to success.
He then acknowledged that some customers "try to Jew me down."
Johnson, R-Duncan — who, with Rep. Fred Jordan, R-Jenks, is the third-ranking member of the majority leadership — immediately apologized, adding that "Jews run good small businesses, too."
"Jew down" is a slang term for haggling and is generally considered derogatory.
New Hampshire Republican Uses "Vagina" As Synonym For "Woman"
Rep. Peter Hansen, an Amherst Republican serving his second term, wrote in an April 1 email to the all-House email list that "children and vagina's" were missing from a fellow representative's anecdotes during the debate over whether to repeal New Hampshire's 2011 "stand your ground" law.
The email was posted Monday on a liberal blog, and Hansen's remark was condemned yesterday by NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire.
"We are shocked and disgusted by this derogatory comment," said Policy and Community Relations Director Sara Persechino in a news release. "Rep. Peter Hansen was elected to represent the citizens of his district and this state; referring to women as 'vaginas' is not in line with New Hampshire's value of equality for all."
Hansen said yesterday his comment was being taken out of context.
It boggles the mind to imagine that there is any conceivable "context" in which it would be vaguely appropriate to refer to a woman as a "vagina". Perhaps the "honorable penis" from Amherst, New Hampshire should apologize to his colleagues, his constituents and all Americans who were shocked by his mysogyny.
Meanwhile in Michigan, Democratic legislators are forbidden to use the word "vagina" to refer to actual vaginae. Details after the jump.
Recently, I was sitting crossed-legged on the floor of my mother's house, digging in her old green cardboard suitcase full of photographs and thank you cards. I poured over the black and white photographs from Odessa, depicting our family and close friends. There were also many pictures in color, of my mother surrounded by her former piano students, whom she taught over the years of her life in Philadelphia, which were proudly taken after numerous concerts my mother had presented. There were pictures of my mother's students, and even her students acting in a musical play that she had directed based on the lives of Clara and Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt and Felix Mendelssohn. Strewn among the photographs were dozens of cards from the parents of my mother's students, with words of gratitude for changing their children's lives through her teaching. With deep sincerity they thanked her for bringing forth their kids' potential and talent in music. They described her as being not only a teacher, but a great mentor and role model.
Along with 14 other religious folks, clergy and committed "laity," I was arrested for standing at the White House with signs and songs, reciting the names of more than one hundred people who had been killed by one result of the climate crisis — Superstorm Sandy.
Among those arrested alongside me were Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, who teaches on social justice at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and is a member of The Shalom Center's Board; Lynne Iser, a member of the Board of Isabella Freedman retreat center; and Freyda Black, a cantor, farmer, and member of P'nai Or Fellowship in Philadelphia.
Will surprises ever cease. Not only are we having a "white Passover" thanks to a freak snow shower on the eve of Chag Aviv, but we are hearing praise for President Barack Obama from unexpected quarters.
Jonathan Tobin is known to our community as the executive editor of Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent from 1998 to 2008. Since then he has been the senior online editor the non-Conservative monthly magazine Commentary. He has never been a fan of the Democrats, but Obama's visit to Israel last week seems to have impressed him:
But one thing has undoubtedly changed in the aftermath of the presidential visit to Israel: Barack Obama's image as an antagonist of the Jewish state. In terms of his attitude toward Israel, in the past three days Obama has altered his status in that regard from being the second coming of Jimmy Carter to that of another Bill Clinton. That won't exempt him from criticism, nor does it mean that he will have even a remote chance of succeeding in moving the region toward peace. But it does mean that many of his Jewish and Democratic defenders have been to some extent vindicated and his critics chastened, if not silenced.
Similarly, ZOA President (and Lower Merion resident) Mort Klein has villified Obama for his Cairo speech but now seems genuinely pleased with Obama's latest trip to the Middle-East:
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) today praised several important, positive statements made by President Barack Obama's during his visit to Israel. In speeches delivered in Israel, President Obama testified to the millennia-old Jewish religious and historical bond with the land of Israel; the success of Zionism in transforming the Jewish people into a genuinely free people in their own land; called for Hizballah to be labeled by all as a terrorist organization; called for the Palestinians to accept Israel as a Jewish state and for Arab nations to normalize relations with Israel; and affirmed America as Israel's strongest ally and greatest friend.
Imagine a world without hate. The ADL produced a powerful 80 second video that you should watch and share, as well as a list of actions we can all take to fight bigotry.
— by Steve Sheffey
President Obama's trip to Israel left no doubt about his strong support for Israel. He emphasized America's unshakeable alliance with Israel. He told the world that Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust, but because of Israel, such a Holocaust will never happen again. He reiterated that the only path to Palestinian independence is through direct talks with Israel.
President Obama reaffirmed America's commitment to Israel's security and to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He reiterated that America stands with Israel because of shared values and because it is in our fundamental national security interest to stand with Israel.
A bill was introduced by State Representative Brendan Boyle. The bill would amend the Public School Code of 1949 to require all public and nonpublic schools in Pennsylvania to include in their existing curriculum age-appropriate education for grades 6-12 on the Holocaust and other
The bill in the Education Committee and is coming up for a vote on April 8. We are urging everyone to contact Mr. Paul Clymer (chair of the Education Committee) He can be contacted by calling tel. 717-783-3154. Please leave a message indicating you support the bill. Also have your friends and relatives do likewise.
Obama and Netanyahu tease NBC's Chuck Todd for asking so many questions on the eve of Passover.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: Mr. President, Barack, it's a great pleasure for me to host you here in Jerusalem. You've graciously hosted me many times in Washington, so I'm very pleased to have this opportunity to reciprocate. I hope that the good will and warmth of the people of Israel has already made you feel at home.
US President Barack Obama: Very much so.
Transcript continues after the jump along with full video.
The Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) has issued its 4th Haggadah Supplement entitled Welcoming the Stranger to the Land. According to JSPAN Vice-President and Philadelphia Jewish Voice board member Kenneth Meyers:
We were immigrants in Egypt. And we have been immigrants many times since then, until we achieved citizenship on American soil. The Seder is a time to reflect on our experience and the plight of others who have not yet achieved their freedoms here. Millions of undocumented immigrants have no path to citizenship or the full freedoms we take for granted. Consider what their status forever does to their lives, and how we can help them and America fulfill our common aspirations.
Links to JSPAN's previous issue oriented Haggadah supplements follow the jump.
Former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham-Clinton released this message in support of the Human Rights Campaign's Americans for Marriage Equality series. Does this six-minute video set the tone for her expected 2016 Presidential campaign? It certainly feels that way.
President Obama will visit Israel for the third time next week, becoming only the fifth sitting president to visit Israel. President Obama's visit will emphasize the strong, historic ties of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. Shimon Peres will award him the Israeli Presidential Medal of Distinction, the first time a US president has received such an honor.
Some Republicans, having criticized President Obama for not going to Israel, are now criticizing him for going. No matter what happens, they'll find something wrong.
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