Lone Soldier Center Thanksgiving Dinner

By Sara Kalker

The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin will be hosting its 9th annual Thanksgiving celebration in Tel Aviv on Thursday November 23, 2017. Over 1,000 lone soldiers from all over the word will come to enjoy food, beer, music, football and great company at the largest annual gathering of lone soldiers. The event is made possible by individual donors in Israel and abroad, Beer Bazaar Jerusalem and communities across Israel who prepare massive quantities of delicious, homemade food.

There are nearly 7,000 lone soldiers serving in the IDF. The holidays are particularly challenging for many whose families are celebrating thousands of miles away. “For lone soldiers from North America, Thanksgiving was one of the happiest and most fun days of the year, when they got together with their families and closest friends to eat, watch football and enjoy being together,” says Joshua Flaster, a former lone soldier and National Director of the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin. “We prepare this meal for the over 1,000 American and hundreds of Canadian lone soldiers to give them a taste of home and allow them to be together with their family in Israel”. You may be part of the fun by purchasing a meal for a lone soldier.

The evening is not just for Americans and Canadians. Soldiers from all over the world attend the massive event, enjoying unlimited turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, green beans, mashed potatoes, beer and more. “It has become a highlight of the year for lone soldiers, regardless of where we are from”, says Alan, from Mexico City.

Church Shooting in Texas

Police in front of Texas church after the shooting. Photo: NBC News

Texas church shooting. Photo: NBC News

by Adam Kessler

Our hearts are heavy as we learn of yet another mass shooting, this time in a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  Three of the five deadliest shootings in modern U.S history have occurred in the last 18 months.  We thought that nothing could be more outrageous than the mass murder in Las Vegas barely five weeks ago. We thought the same thing after Orlando,  Sandy Hook, and Columbine; the list continues to grow with an alarming regularity. At the same time, while mass shootings garner most of the attention, non-mass homicides by gun happen daily with shocking frequency.  Simply by way of example, Chicago is close to recording its 600th homicide for the year. [Read more…]

Congressman Evans on Tax Reform and Children’s Healthcare

Rep. Dwight Evans and kids in school classroom.

Rep. Dwight Evans and kids.

Republican Tax Plan

Congressman Dwight Evans (PA-02) released the following statement after reviewing the latest Republican tax plan.

Our country has not seen bipartisan tax reform since 1986, and I believe we can all agree that the U.S. tax code is in need of a major facelift. Comprehensive tax reform must simplify our tax code, lower rates, and ensure a progressive tax code that helps move everyone in our neighborhoods forward, without simply picking winners and losers.

The Republican party seems to have forgotten one of the guiding principles of our democracy; as their new tax plan does absolutely nothing to ensure that our government is of the people, by the people and for the people. The GOP tax plan borrows trillions from future generations to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires at the expense of our Commonwealth’s children and working families. This is entirely unacceptable and not a plan that fits the needs of Philadelphians, Pennsylvanians and Americans. It is time for the Republican party to work across party lines in a deliberate and transparent manner to create a tax plan that listens to, speaks to, and hears the needs of hardworking Americans in our neighborhoods nationwide.

Children’s Health Insurance Program

Congressman Dwight Evans (PA-02) released the following statement in response to the vote on the House GOP CHIP-CHC Reauthorization bill, H.R. 3922; an incredibly, divisive partisan bill that allocates money to pay for the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Community Health Centers (CHCs), and other public health initiatives by cutting funding for both the Prevention and Public Health Fund and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and raising Medicare premiums for seniors.

According to the most recent Kaiser Family Foundation’s State Health Facts, Pennsylvania’s current DSH allotment is $616.27 million. Cuts to the program will reduce payments by $121.03 million, a 19.6% reduction. Currently, we have more than 176,000 children enrolled in CHIP which will soon run out of money to pay for their care. In the Second District alone, there are 8,360 children who receive healthcare coverage through CHIP.

Let’s stop the games and get something done. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice the health and wellness of one population for another; and that is exactly what this divisive GOP bill does. The bill puts healthcare for our children, our families and our seniors at risk by pitting their needs against one another. Healthcare is not a choice, it is a right. The children in our Commonwealth who rely on CHIP for their basic healthcare needs deserve more than this foolish game of politics. We need to come together, roll up our sleeves and do the right thing. I will keep fighting until we get this done for our children.

The Republican controlled House and Senate failed to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) program which expired on September 30. Nationwide, nine million children rely on CHIP for affordable, reliable healthcare.

Congressman Evans voted “No” on the House GOP CHIP-CHC Reauthorization bill, H.R. 3922.

Congressman Dwight Evans (D PA-02) represents Northwest, West, North, parts of South and Center City Philadelphia, and the western suburbs of Narberth and Lower Merion Township. He serves on the House Agriculture Committee and House Small Business Committee. He is a Co-Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Economic Development and Wealth Creation Task Force.

 

Reflections on New York Terror Attack, Israel Bike Ride and Beyond

The comments below were expressed in a letter by Nigel Savage, president and CEO of Hazon, an organization dedicated to building a more sustainable world within the Jewish community and beyond.

I rode into work, as I do many days of the year, on a beautiful bike path on a beautiful day. My organization, Hazon, worked quite hard for several years to increase the number of protected bike lanes in New York City. We’re proud of that work, and I sometimes say to people, “and the statistics show that protected bike lanes reduce fatalities and injuries, both for bike riders and pedestrians ….”

But of course those statistics didn’t allow for a day like Tuesday. A few hours after I rode in, a crazy guy — but not randomly crazy, a guy with ideological method to his murderousness — mowed down a bunch of people who happened to be on the bike path at that moment. As we know, eight of them never got up. I rode home an hour later, past the police and the barricades and the camera crews. And past two little kids — wee high, 3 feet tall if that — in cute white Star Wars stormtrooper outfits. “May the force be with all of us,” I thought. [Read more…]

Declaration of Sympathy With Jewish Zionist Aspirations

Arthur Balfour. Photo: George Grantham Bain.

Arthur Balfour. Photo: George Grantham Bain.

November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you. on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet:—

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours,

Arthur James Balfour

StandWithUs Israeli Soldiers Tours Visited Philadelphia

– Ferne Hassan

The innovative Israeli Soldiers Tours (IST) program features two Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reservists, who relate their personal experiences upholding the strict IDF moral code while fighting an enemy that hides behind its civilians. Their stories have never been heard before.

Six teams of two IST participants spent two weeks this fall speaking throughout the United States, primarily on campuses, in high schools, synagogues and churches. They put a human face on the IDF uniform. [Read more…]

Local Children’s Charity on a Winning Streak

By Laurel Fairworth

Twenty-year-old Eric Salomon is really enjoying his training in commercial baking at Variety, The Children’s Charity Vocational Training program known as Variety Works. It is but one of the innovative new vocational projects geared to teaching kids and young adults a useful trade. In the past Eric would be aging out the system, but now he can continue to learn for additional years into adulthood with the goal of self-sufficiency. Eric stated “I have the opportunity to learn to do something I love that will allow me to be more independent. It’s awesome.”

The revitalization is part of CEO Angus Murray’s vision for the non-profit. Variety has been in the Philadelphia area since 1935 and its Camp and Development Center has been in existence since 1949, one of the first in our area to provide a safe place for kids with disabilities. Originally serving boys who survived polio it now supports children with temporary and permanent disabilities. The main campus sits on 80 donated acres of prime real estate in Worcester, Pennsylvania where Variety hosts a working farm. It holds summer camps, year round activities, extended school year programs, plus its first joint agricultural venture with an area institution. Promoted three years ago, Murray is seeing his ideas bear fruit.

The charity hit a rough patch almost a decade ago but has rebounded both financially and most importantly through innovative programs aimed at creating more options for those with special needs. As we close in on the charity’s 85th anniversary Variety has made an amazing comeback by bringing on board an experienced development and program director, reinvigorating the camp’s facilities, and committing to a comprehen-sive three year strategic plan to transform Variety’s entire campus.

Angus Murray has stated “It is so exciting to see the hard work our staff, families and community partners finally come to fruition to ensure Variety and our kids have a bright future.”

Murray’s game plan included bringing on other experienced professionals and forging relationships with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, The Philadelphia Zoo and Einstein Hospital. A pilot program is underway which will be fully operational by January 2018. In regards to the ZOO, our students grow produce which in turn is sold to the Zoo to feed the animals. In 2016 The Philadelphia Zoo purchased over $20,000 worth of produce from Variety Works. The circle is complete as monies from this effort are reinvested to fund and expand the initiative.

Vegetables and fruits grown at the farm are pesticide free, aquaponic, farm to table and are being cultivated by all the kids including those in wheelchairs. Kale, radishes, tomatoes, onions, squash, banana leaves, corn, herbs and flowers children are a sam-pling of some of the tasty items being sold.

Moving forward, the charity is in discussions with numerous food chains and high end local restaurants throughout the Philadelphia Metropolitan area to provide produce and employment for the teens once they graduate from our program.

CEO Angus Murray states, “One of the parents whose child came through the program told me they had no idea their child has this hidden talent or aptitude. They were amazed and pleased and that is what we want for all our kids”

Murray explains that is exactly what drew him to the non-profit and why he wakes up each day full of creative ways to expand its reach. He vows to continue the moderni-zation of Variety until each child receives the guidance he or she requires.

Pride in Jewish Identity Under Nazi Occupation

Ladies wearing Jewish stars. Photo: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Ladies wearing Jewish stars. Photo: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

During World War II, German authorities and their collaborators in Nazi-occupied countries forced people of Jewish descent to wear identifying badges as a way to isolate them and publicly mark them as inferior. But some chose to embrace their forced visibility and celebrate their Jewish identity by posing for professional photographic portraits while wearing the yellow star.

[Read more…]

Can Democrats Win Control of the U.S. House in 2018?

By Bill Madway, DJOP

The 2018 midterm elections offer a critical opportunity for the Democratic Party. Although it won’t be easy – due, in large part, to gerrymandering – we have a realistic chance of winning control of the U.S. House. All 435 seats in the House will be up for election. With the GOP currently at 240 seats and the Democratic Party at 194 (one seat is vacant due to the resignation of Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz), we need a net gain of 24 seats to take the House.

One reason for optimism is that the President’s party typically loses House seats in midterm elections. Over the past 18 midterm elections, which dates back to Harry Truman in 1946, the President’s party has lost an average 25.6 seats in the House. So, the gain we need (24) is within this parameter.

Another reason for optimism is the Democratic Party’s current standing in “generic ballot” surveys, that is, in polls that ask people which party they would support in a Congressional election. According to FiveThirtyEight’s most recent findings, Democrats hold a 10-point lead vs. the GOP in the generic match-up. The figure is similar in RealClearPolitics’ most recent calculations; Democrats hold a 9-point lead.

What does this mean? In a recent report, Alan I. Abramowitz of Sabato’s Crystal Ball writes, “…Democrats will need a lead of at least five points on the generic ballot in early September of 2018 in order to gain the 24 seats they need to take control of the House” (emphasis mine). The recent poll results compiled by FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics show that the five-point threshold is well within reach.

Looking specifically at Pennsylvania, our state will play a pivotal role in the battle for control of the House. In a recent column published by PolticsPA, Louis Jacobson, senior correspondent for PolitiFact and a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, identified four House incumbents as vulnerable to ouster. All four are Republicans from Southeastern PA – Ryan Costello (PA-6), Pat Meehan (PA-7), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-8), and Lloyd Smucker (PA-16). All of the Democrats in the House, except Matt Cartwright, who represents the 17th Congressional District (Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and Easton), are considered safe. Cartwright is rated as potentially vulnerable.

Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball is not as bullish on the Democrats’ chances in these four races. In a July 27 column, he rates all four as “Leans Republican,” but this represents a downgrade from “Likely Republican” for Costello and Meehan. So, if strong Democratic candidates are selected in the 2018 Primary Election, and Trump’s approval ratings continue to fall, all four of these seats could realistically flip. Looking at the incumbent Democrats, Kondik rates Bob Brady (PA-1), Dwight Evans (PA-2), Brendan Boyle (PA-13), and Mike Doyle (PA-14, Pittsburgh) as “safe.” Democrat Matt Cartwright (PA-17) is rated “likely” to win.

What are the implications of these predictions for Democratic voters? While the signs are encouraging, they’re only signs. Action is required to turn them into reality. If you reside in one of the “flippable” district discussed above, get involved in the primary process now as some candidates have already announced their running. Investigate them, and if there is someone you support, volunteer for her/his campaign, make a contribution, etc. Don’t wait until 2018 to bring your resources to bear; beating an incumbent is seldom easy and can’t be done, if people wait until after the Primary Election to get involved.

For PA Democrats who reside in a Congressional district currently represented by a Democrat, you’re in an enviable position. Your Representative in the House is very likely or likely to win re-election in 2018. But you can’t take anything for granted; so making sure your Representative is re-elected is job one. However, you can do more, much more. You can help Democrats running in nearby Congressional districts win by volunteering and providing much-needed funds. And as I said above, don’t wait until 2018 to get involved.

A final word. In response to the question I posted at the outset, yes, the Democratic Party can win control of the U.S. House in the 2018 midterms. What’s more, Pennsylvania, as it has many times in the past – look no further than the 2016 presidential election, for an example – will play a pivotal role in the outcome. And this means all of us have an important role to play. There are several “flippable” seats in PA. As long as each of us does not confine our electioneering efforts to the arbitrary boundaries of our own Congressional district, we will defeat several GOP House incumbents in PA, getting our party closer to the majority in the House.

Bill Madway is part of the leadership team of Democratic Jewish Outreach PA. He has 25+ years practicing and teaching marketing communications and market research. For questions or comments about the commentary above or other topics, contact him at 610-527-9502 or wmmadway@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/thtleader.

 

Update on Redistricting Cases With Potential Pennsylvania Impact

The issue of partisan gerrymandering was on the docket during the first week in October, both in the U.S. Supreme Court and in courts in Pennsylvania. Partisan gerrymandering is the practice of intentionally drawing voting district lines in a way that benefits a particular political party. Here is a court-by-court update on the status of these gerrymandering cases.

In the U.S. Supreme Court

https://pixabay.com/en/supreme-court-building-usa-546279/

U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court heard oral argument in the Wisconsin redistricting case, Gill v. Whitford. Early news reports of the argument suggest the expected: the four liberal justices see the injustice of a gerrymander that denies people of the “wrong” party a meaningful right to vote. The four conservative justices may be willing to stay with the existing system, under which courts do not interfere with redistricting on the grounds that it is a “political” matter. Justice Kennedy, who is potentially the key swing vote, appeared to take the arguments by the plaintiffs seriously. Judgment in the case will take a while, likely emerging sometime during the present term, which lasts until the end of June 2018.   –Ken Myers
 

In the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

The day before the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the Wisconsin case, another partisan gerrymandering case was filed in federal District Court in Philadelphia by five Pennsylvania citizens. Taking a different approach from the Wisconsin case, the Pennsylvania plaintiffs in Agre v. Wolf argue that the the partisan nature of Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional district map violates the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution. They claim that even the attempt or intent to gerrymander is unconstitutional under this clause and that the court should require Pennsylvania to come up with a process of redistricting that has effective guarantees against partisan overreach.

As Raymond Solomon, one of the plaintiffs in the case, explained:

We’re not just looking for a new map, but a new process. California, Arizona, New Jersey and other states have shown that there can be neutral and fair processes that do not rig the outcomes in advance. We feel the U.S. House is the People’s House, and deciding who goes to the People’s House belongs to the people and not the politicians.

 

In the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

At the state level, a hearing was held before Senior Judge Dan Pellegrini of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in a partisan gerrymandering case brought by petitioners the League of Women Voters and individual voters from across the commonwealth. At issue in the hearing was whether this case should be delayed until the U.S. Supreme Court delivers its ruling in the Wisconsin case, as claimed by lawyers for the Pennsylvania General Assembly and its leaders.

The petitioners argue that a delay is not warranted because their case is based on the state constitution, not the federal one, and therefore, would not be governed by the Supreme Court’s ruling. They also emphasize that time is critical to prevent yet another election where the voices of Democratic voters are effectively silenced because their voting districts were drawn to secure Republican victories.

Judge Pellegrini said that even if he allows this case to proceed without waiting for the Supreme court’s ruling in the Wisconsin case, the judicial process will not be completed before the 2018 midterm elections. He did mention the option of a King’s Bench petition, which can potentially fast-track a case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

When can we expect Judge Pellegrini to rule on whether he will delay the case or permit it to proceed in Commonwealth Court? David Gersch, one of the attorneys for the petitioners, believes the judge will issue his order within a few weeks.