Friday, April 29, 2011

TAKE ACTION: Saving SNAP (Formerly Known as Food Stamps)

At the end of last year the JCPA and other anti-hunger advocacy leaders achieved a major victory with the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.This bill made major nutritional improvements and expanded access to the school lunch, breakfast, and afterschool meal program. Experts in the anti-hunger community believe this child nutrition bill will be a positive step forward in putting an end to childhood hunger. Still, a major sacrifice was made in the final days of the legislative negotiations: it was agreed that in order to fund the bill, a cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) would be made. The JCPA was deeply disappointed in this cut to SNAP, and we vowed in 2011 to work to restore and strengthen this important anti-poverty, anti-hunger program.

In recent weeks we have learned that securing future funding for SNAP will be an uphill battle. Members of the House of Representatives have made drastic proposals that will considerably cut funding to SNAP and make major structural changes, including potentially block granting the program. These moves could not come at a worst time. In 2009 alone, SNAP lifted 4.6 million Americans above the poverty line, including 2.1 million children and 200,000 seniors. SNAP reduces hunger and food insecurity by providing very low-income people desperately needed, targeted assistance to purchase food through an effective and efficient electronic benefit transfer system. Many economists, including Mark Zandi, believe at times of economic struggle, like our current recession, SNAP provides one of the most reliable “bangs for our buck” and is one of the most stimulative federal programs.

The 2012 budget proposal passed by the House of Representatives on April 15th fails to recognize the significance of SNAP in low-income families’ lives and instead proposes major changes to this successful program. According to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report, the House Budget Committee’s proposal would “cut the SNAP program by $127 billion—almost 20 percent—over the next ten years (2012-2021), which could throw millions of low-income families off the rolls, cut benefits by thousands of dollars a year, or some combination of the two.” Chairman of the House Budget Committee Representative Paul Ryan (WI-R) also has proposed to block grant the program beginning in 2015, a move that could lead to cuts in eligibility or deep reductions in benefits. The JCPA has advocated tirelessly for this program because we believe it is one of the key initiatives that works effectively and has the potential to make real changes in people’s lives. Each month many families who are struggling to make ends meet have to make tough decisions between putting food on the table, paying their mortgage, or deciding whether or not to purchase important medicine. SNAP provides assistance in the tough decisions low-income people have to make and allows relief when it is most needed.

The CBPP report goes on to state that “unlike most means-tested benefit programs, which are restricted to particular categories of low-income individuals, SNAP is broadly available to almost all households with very low incomes. As a result, cutting SNAP would affect broad swaths of the low-income population. Three-quarters of SNAP participants are in families with children; one-third are in households that include seniors citizens or people with disabilities.” As people of faith, we cannot allow such changes to take place to such an important human needs program. At a time of great need in our country, we should stand up for the most vulnerable among us and advocate for a truly righteous and effective program. As scripture tells us “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9.

What YOU can do:

1.    Sign your national, state, and community-based organization on to this letter  being circulated by our friends at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and the National Anti-Hunger Organizations (NAHO). The JCPA has already signed on as a national organization. Also feel free to forward this request to all of your partners.

2.    Attend a district event. Members of Congress are still on recess until May 2nd. Many are holding town hall meetings or conference calls with constituents. Call the offices of your Members (House or Senate) and see when their next public meetings are scheduled. Then attend and ask your Representative or Senator a question on the proposed cuts to SNAP.

3.    Get the word out to the press/public. The JCPA can work with you on drafting a Letter to the Editor, Op-Ed, or blog post on SNAP. In addition, if you have a Twitter or Facebook account, start a discussion on the importance of SNAP using recent data about food hardship levels in your town. Invite the local news team over to view your senior feeding site or food bank. Displaying how successful anti-hunger programs are will help build the case against future cuts.

The most important thing to do is to take action now before major decisions are made about this vital program.

If you have questions about SNAP or ways to get involved please contact Elyssa Koidin <ekoidin@thejcpa.org>

Royal Wedding Fever Hits the Streets of... Modi’in

Photo by: 2Dphotography.co.il
British immigrants to host a Sheva Brachot/Shabbat Dinner/Street Party in honor of Prince William and Kate Middleton's impending nuptials.

As Anglophiles around the world prepare for the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton, British residents of Modi’in plan to offer their own special mazal tov to the royal couple.

Over 200 people are set to attend a sheva brachot celebration in the streets of Modi’in hours after the royal wedding. The Shabbat dinner will take place in the Shvatim and Moriyah neighborhoods, which are popular with Anglos and have many British residents. -- Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Easter, Passover, and the West Side Story that Wasn’t


West Side Story (film, 1961)
Late in 1948, in the early stages of his collaboration with Jerome Robbins on the musical that would become West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein wrote in his diary:

Jerry R. called today with a noble idea: a modern version of  Romeo and Juliet set in slums at the coincidence of Easter-Passover celebrations. Feelings run high between Jews and Catholics. Former: Capulets, latter: Montagues. Juliet is Jewish. Friar Lawrence is the neighborhood druggist. Street brawls, double death—it all fits.

It is likely that Robbins (né Rabinowitz), who was both a dancer and a choreographer, had been partially inspired by Sergei Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet, which had been written in 1935 but was first performed in its full version only three years later. Bernstein, however, who had just returned to New York from his second visit to the nascent state of Israel, had additional reasons to be interested in the project.-- Elliott Horowitz, Jewish Ideas Daily

To read the complete article, click here.

Will Israel's Electric Cars Change the World?

An electric car is connected to
a Better Place battery switch station
in Kiryat Ekron, central Israel, March 23, 2011
Sebastian Scheiner / AP
Shai Agassi, the founder of Better Place, the most sophisticated electric-car enterprise in the world, projects the ebullient confidence of a man facing a giant wave of money. "Within less than this decade the No. 1–selling car in the world will be the electric car," he says. "It's the biggest financial opportunity the world has ever seen. We're seeing a $10 trillion shift in an industry in less than a decade. It's the Internet, and add another zero."

In the introduction to Start-Up Nation, Dan Senor and Saul Singer's best-selling paean to Israeli innovation, Agassi was the soft-spoken software wiz who had a brilliant idea and a terrible time locating a backer. That doesn't seem to be a problem anymore. "Not when you've digitized the most expensive molecule on the planet," he says. "We've digitized oil." He pauses. "I'll put it this way: We have people from China here."...

Enter Better Place, the start-up that makes more than electric cars. It also makes an entire infrastructure intended to free automobiles from the stubborn limits of battery life. When the enterprise launches in Israel later this year, drivers should be able to travel anywhere in the country in cars with a battery range of 100 miles (160 km). If they set off from Tel Aviv to the Red Sea, a journey of 200 miles (320 km), they will be able to pull into a Better Place station along the highway and exchange their low battery for a fully charged one. The process should take about five minutes. Otherwise, the car can recharge overnight via a plug that snaps into the little door above the rear wheel where gas would go if the car burned gas. The vehicles can also trickle charge in parking lots where the company's distinctive blue-topped posts are located. (See the history of the electric car.) -- Karl Vick / Ramat Hasharon, Time Magazine

To read the complete article, click here.

Jersualem Post Editor's Notes: The Moralist

Photo by Reuters
When your enemies do not follow the rules of war... An eye-opening interview with the man who helps set the IDF’s ethical parameters

Tel Aviv University philosophy professor Asa Kasher co-authored the first IDF Code of Ethics and continues to work on the moral doctrines that shape the parameters of our army’s actions.

He has taught at the IDF colleges since the late 1970s and for a long time was the only professor talking to officers about military ethics. When the IDF decided to try writing a Code of Ethics, he was approached and appointed head of a team of generals that wrote a draft and then the final version of the 1994 code, which was approved by chief of staff Ehud Barak and prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. -- David Horovitz, Jerusalem Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Op Ed: Democracy in Israel Cannot Exist Without a Pluralistic Judaism

Charlie Kalech is the founding director of J-Town Productions Ltd.,
Jerusalem’s senior Internet consultancy which has helped NPOs
and business succeed on the Web since 1994
Israel’s Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar of the Likud and the Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni of Kadima recently flew to the United States at the invitation of the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly to attend the R.A. convention in Las Vegas. Their appearance together is indicative of a growing trend in Israel of partners working together for the greater good. In this case: religious pluralism.

Only a week earlier, marking the 90th anniversary of the Chief Rabbinate, Religious Services Minister Ya’acov Margi called for legislation backing his assertion “that there are no streams in Judaism, only one that has been passed down to us from generation to generation.

Countering this, Education Minister Sa’ar told the conference, “There is not one Jewish stream and there shouldn’t be one Jewish way of life that monopolizes Judaism.”

The teams are positioning themselves. Sides are being taken. Allies are being formed. Lines are being drawn. The future of the Jewish State and Judaism itself are being determined. -- Charlie Kalech, ejewishphilanthropy.com
  
This article is reprinted with the author’s permission from Jerusalem Journal, a regular column in the Jewish Community Voice of Southern NJ.

Click here for the complete article.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Israel at 63

Beginning at sundown Sunday, May 8 and ending at sundown on Monday, May 9, Israelis will celebrate their country’s 63nd Independence Day, known as Yom Ha’Atzmaut in Hebrew. Across the country, Israelis will commemorate the holiday with a national ceremony on Mount Herzl, family picnics, barbecues, and nature trips. The day before, Israelis will observe Yom HaZikaron, the national day of remembrance of soldiers who died fighting in Israel’s wars, as well as victims of terrorism. -- Israel Project

To view the accompanying video, click on the image below.

The Ultimate Ally--The "realists" are wrong: America needs Israel now more than ever.

What is the definition of an American ally? On an ideological level, an ally is a country that shares America's values, reflects its founding spirit, and resonates with its people's beliefs. Tactically, an ally stands with the United States through multiple conflicts and promotes its global vision. From its location at one strategic crossroads, an ally enhances American intelligence and defense capabilities, and provides ports and training for U.S. forces. Its army is formidable and unequivocally loyal to its democratic government. An ally helps secure America's borders and assists in saving American lives on and off the battlefield. And an ally stimulates the U.S. economy through trade, technological innovation, and job creation.

Few countries fit this description, but Israel is certainly one of them. As U.S. President Barack Obama told a White House gathering, "The United States has no better friend in the world than Israel," a statement reflecting the positions of Democrats and Republicans alike. The importance of the U.S.-Israel alliance has been upheld by successive American administrations and consistently endorsed by lawmakers and military leaders. It should be unimpeachable. But for some it is not. -- Michael Oren, Israel's Ambassador to the US, foreignpolicy.com

To read the complete article, click here.

Five Myths about Church and State in America

Norman Rockwell's Golden Rule
Liberals claim that the founding fathers separated church and state, while conservatives argue that the founders made faith a foundation of our government. Both sides argue that America once enjoyed a freedom to worship that they seek to preserve. Yet neither side gets it right. As we mark Passover and Easter, let’s end some misconceptions about religion and politics in America. -- David Sehat, Washington Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Deaf-blind Theater Troupe Touches Audiences

The Nalaga’at Theatrical Group
These actors can't see or hear. Nevertheless, their unique theatrical presentation captivates audiences by blending touch, mime, sign language and music in a show about dreams and disability.

“It’s everything good theater actually is and should be and so seldom is nowadays,” says Adina Tal, director of Nalaga’at Center (nalagaat.org.il), an Israeli troupe made up of 11 deaf and blind actors from Tel Aviv-Jaffa. In Hebrew, na lagaat means “please touch.”

The only deaf and blind theater troupe in the world, Nalaga’at has also performed in North America and Europe. There are two full-length shows in the repertoire. The actors learn their parts slowly, each paired with a translator who signs instructions into the palms of their hands.

“It really, really changed my life being here at Nalaga’at,” says actress Batsheva Ravenseri through interpreter Feige Swirsky. “I got in touch with a lot of interpreters, who support us, and they love us and we love each other.” -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Click on the image below to view accompanying video.

Taking the Extreme Approach to Israel

A tandem jump over Israel is an unforgettable experience.



Want to mountain-bike through the Negev at moonlight? Rappel down Black Canyon? Spelunk in Mount Sedom? Name the extreme sport and Israel has it. --Desmond Bentley, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read the complete article, click here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

B'Mitzvah for Children with Special Needs

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program for Children with special needs in Israel by the Masorti Movement.

Click on image below to view video.

Wave of Vandalism Hits Non-Orthodox Synagogues Again

Conservative and Reform communities say the perpetrators are ultra-Orthodox youth who are opposed to other streams of Judaism.
Graffiti scrawled on Ra’anana’s Reform synagogue last week.
Photo by: Alon Ron
A Netanya Conservative and Reform house of worship has become the target of stone-throwing attacks, allegedly by ultra-Orthodox youths waging a battle to scare the congregants into leaving.

The Beit Yisrael synagogue in Netanya has been pelted with rocks on three different Friday nights in the last month. The youths reportedly hurled epithets at the synagogue parishioners, called them Gentiles and demanded that they leave the area. The rocks caused no damage, and no one has been hurt in the attacks. -- David Sheen, Haaretz

To read the complete article, click here.

Rabbi, Run

Gershom Sizomu, the first African-born black rabbi in Uganda, ran for his country’s parliament, trying to win support from outside the tiny, century-old Ugandan Jewish community he leads. A photo diary.



Last month, Gershom Sizomu Wambedde, likely the first black African-born rabbi, ran for the parliamentary seat representing Uganda’s Bungokho North district. His campaign, waged in the rural enclaves outside the provincial center of Mbale, was hot, dusty, and contentious. He lost, by just a thousand votes, after alleged vote-rigging by the incumbent. But the campaign was also a significant attempt by Sizomu’s congregation of about a thousand to bring legitimacy and recognition to the Abayudaya, as the Jews of Uganda call themselves. Tablet Magazine’s Matthew Fishbane spent the week leading up to national elections with Sizomu, whose campaign benefited from significant support from international Jewish groups. In this audio slideshow produced by Ari Daniel Shapiro, Fishbane talks about the challenges ahead for Sizomu’s tiny community, the dynamics of an election campaign in rural Uganda, and the hopes for Sizomu’s political future. -- Tablet

To read the accompanying article, click here.

First Green Synagogue is Facing the Auction Block

Photo by: Courtesy
World's first LEED-certified synagogue, Congregation Beth David in San Luis Obispo, Calif., turning to US Jews to save it from foreclosure.

Congregation Beth David in San Luis Obispo, Calif., says it must raise $1.3 million by May 5 or the bank will foreclose on its $3.3 million loan. The building would be put up for auction on May 17.

Beth David was built in 2005 and became the world’s first LEED-certified synagogue. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green building standard that signals a design aimed at minimizing environmental impact and saving natural resources.

The building was constructed on 92 acres, including 62 acres of wetlands and 30 acres that were intended for sale as agricultural land, with the proceeds helping to pay off the bank loan, according to the congregation. But the community has been hard hit by the economic downturn, and dues from the 200 member families weren’t enough to keep up with the $18,000 interest-only monthly payments.

The bank forgave $1 million of the original loan, and the temple has been able to raise $1 million internally, but is now turning to the national Jewish community for help," synagogue board co-president Gregg Loberstein told JTA. “We’ve got a bit of a hill to climb, but we believe we can get it done in time.”

The congregation has a Facebook page to keep track of donations, and it has drawn some media attention, including a recent piece on MSNBC. -- JTA vis Jerusalem Post

Auschwitz Bar Mitzvah for 78-Year-old Oscar-Winner Branko Lustig

Branko Lustig, 78, two-time Oscar winner for “Schindler’s List” and “Gladiator,” will celebrate his bar mitzvah on May 2 at Auschwitz, in front of barrack No. 24.

He missed his rite of passage as a 13-year-old because at the time he was a prisoner in the very same barrack, having been deported from his Croatian hometown to the death camp when he was 10.

To mark the belated bar mitzvah, Lustig will be accompanied by some 10,000 participants in the March of the Living, nearly all teenagers.

Lustig’s life story from child prisoner to successful Hollywood producer seems so implausible that even he and his good friend Steven Spielberg might hesitate to put it in front of an audience. -- Tom Tugend, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bibi, Zuckerberg, Giffords Make Time’s List of Most Influential

Benjamin Netanyahu, Mark Zuckerberg and Gabrielle Giffords are among Time magazine's list of the most influential people of the year.

The magazine's list of the most influential people in the world, the 2011 Time 100, came out Thursday.

Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, leads a country that is successful economically and its citizens feel relatively safe, writes Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

But Haass adds that "Most of the world views Israel as the principal obstacle to Middle East peace" -- a process that will decide his legacy and the future of the Jewish state.

In writing about Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, the mayor of a Connecticut city, East Haven's April Capone, writes of answering a call on the social networking site by a resident who needed a kidney transplant.

Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who is rehabilitating after being shot in the head in January, is praised in the Time segment by President Obama for her "hard work and fair play, hope and resilience." Obama says Giffords is "a model of civility and courage and unity -- a needed voice that cannot return soon enough."

Among the leading Jews joining the trio on the list are Matthew Weiner, creator of "Mad Men"; virus hunter Nathan Wolfe; Larry Page, a co-founder of Google; producer Scott Rudin; and economist Joseph Stiglitz. -- JTA

To read the complete article from Time Magazine, click here.

Facing Big Cuts by Congress, Jewish Groups Aligned with Dems’ Vision Struggle for Bipartisan Appeal

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
touts his 2012 federal budget during a news conference
on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 5, 2011.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
In the showdown over the 2012 U.S. budget, Jewish organizations clearly fall on one particular side of the partisan divide: the Democratic one.

But as the battle between Republicans and Democrats over spending gets under way, the trick the organizations are trying to pull off is appealing to both parties.

For now, the organizations -- which include groups whose boards boast major Republican givers -- are strategizing on how best to protect medical subsidies they fear will be wiped out under Republican plans.

The challenge is they’re warning that even if just some of the proposals touted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, make it into a final compromise budget, that would constitute a doomsday scenario.
-- Ron Kampeas, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

Eichmann Craved Post-War Recognition

Eichmann. Tactical lette
r
Photo: Mili Gon, GPO
‪‪


Book reveals major organizer of Nazi Holocaust longed to leave hiding in Argentina, return to Germany to get his place in history for sending millions of Jews to their deaths‬‬. -- ‪Reuters‬ via Ynetnews

To view complete article, click here.

Idud: A Successful Approach to ADHD

Students at Dr. Simcha Chesner’s school for boys with ADHD.
Photo by Mike Horton
Thanks to an educational program initiated by an American immigrant, the outlook is brighter for scores of Jewish and Arab Israeli children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a common neurological condition causing inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.

Idud (Encouragement) began as a pilot project in one religious and three secular elementary schools, says its founder, clinical psychologist and educator Stuart (Simcha) Chesner. Now, Idud is going national in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Education, and is being implemented at several Jewish schools in New York. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

To read the complete article, click here.