Spreading the Message of Tolerance — One Sign at a Time

An example of one of the signs created by North Park Neighbors, Chicago, Illinois.

An example of one of the signs created by North Park Neighbors, Chicago, Illinois.

“Hate has no home here” — powerful words written by two elementary school students in North Park, a neighborhood in Chicago characterized by its diversity. The students’ message — in English and five other languages — is now plastered on posters throughout their school, and, thanks to a small group of community members, on yard signs throughout the North Park neighborhood. The signs are red on one side and blue on the other, denoting that the message crosses party lines. [Read more…]

Children Teach Us Something Important on the Basketball Court

I recently went to the Wells Fargo Center to watch some kids play a pickup game of basketball. It was not your typical basketball game, however, but not because the kids were playing on the home court of the Philadelphia 76ers. This was a game involving students from the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr and the Al Aqsa Islamic Academy in Philadelphia. It was also the bar mitzvah project of Ari Abramovitz, a middle-school student at Barrack. [Read more…]

Governor Tom Wolf Signs Anti-BDS Bill Into Law

By Ferne Hassan

governor_tom_wolf_official_portrait_2015Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf scored a double win for his state by signing into law a bill (HB- 2107), which combats the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign on November 4, 2016. Its most significant impact will be on prohibiting any company that seeks to do business with Pennsylvania from engaging in economic warfare with Israel, or any other trading partner with favored nation status. It also defends Pennsylvania’s economic interests against attempts to weaken its ability to conduct trade with Israel.

This bipartisan bill, introduced in the House by Rep. Matthew Baker (R) with 26 co-sponsors from both parties, passed by a vote of 181-9.

“Taking a stand against the BDS movement seems especially appropriate for Pennsylvania, a state which proudly takes the lead against discrimination,” states Joseph Puder, Director, StandWithUs Philadlephia. “I am proud of Pennsylvania’s legislators and governor for opposing the economic warfare which is being waged against Israel and for once again upholding fairness and sound public policy.”

The goal of BDS is the demonization and isolation of Israel. BDS proponents often present their case in terms of justice; however, this masks the real agenda of seeking to destroy Israel rather than improve the lives of Palestinians. The movement falls clearly under the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism as it demonizes, delegitimizes and holds Israel to a double standard, the only Jewish state and the only democracy in the Middle East. This law asserts that Pennsylvania will not be a partner to discrimination and anti-Semitism.

The law also protects Pennsylvania’s economic interests. PA enjoys over $200 million in annual economic trade with Israeli entities, in addition to business done with many other partners who have commercial interests in Israel. This trade encompasses many of the state’s most important economic sectors, such as defense, technology research and development, and health sciences. Passage of HB-2107 sends a clear message to the Israeli business community that it is welcome here.

The bill does not violate any First Amendment rights. It exercises the state’s own right to choose the companies with which it will contract. It does not penalize or infringe on anyone’s private speech or conduct. Companies are free to make whatever statements they wish, even stupid or hostile things about Israel; individuals are not impacted at all. The bill simply clarifies that if an entity chooses to engage in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), then the state can exercise its right to not support that entity. Exercising such discretion with taxpayer funds is an important part of reinforcing economic interests, public policy and the basic ethical standards of government.

The U.S. government has also emphatically rejected boycotts based on national origin and interference with foreign trade policy in general. Congress has legislated against boycotts of Israel for four decades, and federal courts have ruled that economic boycotts are not protected free speech.

Pennsylvania joins twelve states that have passed such legislation and are fighting back against bigotry.

Rep. Elijah Cummings Inspires Voters and Volunteers in West Philadelphia

Pennsylvania is the keystone of the Clinton campaign’s legendary “fire wall” and maximizing the turnout in the Democratic bastion of Philadelphia is key to victory in Philadelphia. Accordingly, the city of brotherly love has been graced by a who’s-who’s of luminaries in the Democratic Party.

For example, yesterday singer Katy Perry performed to a packed house at the Mann Center and was accompanied by Hillary Clinton, Dwight Evans, Bob Brady, Bob Casey, Cory Booker and Madeleine Albright.

Tomorrow, it will be Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen’s turn to perform on Independence Mall, along with Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton, and Barack and Michelle Obama.

Today, campaign volunteers canvassed neighborhoods all around Philadelphia, knocking on more doors than the rest of Pennsylvania combined. They were encouraged in this effort by Congressman Elijah Cummings, who represents parts of Baltimore and Howard County, Maryland. He dropped by the West Philadelphia Democratic Campaign Field Office at 1575 N. 52nd Street in West Philadelphia. After rallying the eager volunteers, he visited local churches to greet the congregants.

Bill Clinton Stumps for Hillary in Main Line

Bill Clinton addresses volunteers in Ardmore, PA campaign office

Bill Clinton addresses volunteers in Ardmore, PA campaign office. Photo: Joel Parlish Photography

Hillary Clinton was busy yesterday preparing for her final debate with Donald Trump (this evening in Las Vegas), but the campaign was far from idle with her surrogates mobilizing voters in swing states (and red states which have turned purple like Arizona and Texas).

Her husband Bill Clinton headlined a rally at Montgomery Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania and then visited campaign offices in Ardmore and Bristol to speak to the volunteers in this swing state who will be key to electing Hillary as the 45th President of the United States.

As rumors spread that Bill Clinton was in town, the Ardmore campaign office at Lancaster and Cricket Avenues was packed shoulder to shoulder in the unseasonable 84° heat. Bill Clinton drew distinctions between his wife’s Stronger Together campaign with Trump’s divisive politics where victory by some can only be had at the expense of others. He lauded his wife’s ability to get bipartisan support for her major initiatives such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which enjoyed the support of about two-thirds of both chambers of Congress.

[Read more…]

American Jewish Committee: The Dean of American Jewish Organizations

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) The AJC was founded in 1906. The impetus for creating this organization was the news of the pogroms against Jews in the Russian Empire. The AJC’s mission was to “prevent infringement of the civil and religious rights of Jews and to alleviate the consequences of persecution,” no matter where they were occurring. The AJC is still going strong today, advocating for religious pluralism, Muslim-Jewish relations, and Jewish students on campus. One of the AJC’s most important areas of activism is in combating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement. [Read more…]

Rep. John Lewis Receives Liberty Medal

Jeff Rosen, Lynne Honickman and Rep. John Lewis

Jeff Rosen, Lynne Honickman and Rep. John Lewis

Rep. John Lewis has joined the ranks of such luminaries as Nelson Mandela, Sandra Day O’Connor and Shimon Peres. Like them, the longtime Georgia congressman is now a recipient of the Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. As described on the Center’s website, “the Liberty Medal is awarded annually to men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.”

Mayor Jim Kenney, former Councilwoman  Marian Tasco, former Mayor Wilson Goode, Sharmain Matlock-Turner, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle and State Rep. Dwight Evans

Mayor Jim Kenney, former Councilwoman Marian Tasco, former Mayor Wilson Goode, Sharmain Matlock-Turner, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle and State Rep. Dwight Evans

Lewis has demonstrated such “courage and conviction” throughout his life as a champion of civil rights. A product of the segregated South, Lewis joined the Civil Rights Movement at a young age, and throughout his career, maintained his courage in the face of many challenges, such as arrests and police brutality. He took part in the Freedom Rides to oppose bus segregation, and as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he organized sit-ins and other protests. Along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis was a member of the Big Six, the group that organized the March on Washington, and he was the youngest speaker at that historic event.

Harold and Lynne Honickman and Marguerite and Jerry Lenfest

Harold and Lynne Honickman and Marguerite and Jerry Lenfest

Later, Lewis focused much of his attention on voting rights. He was one of the leaders of the Edmund Pettus Bridge crossing, during which peaceful advocates for voting rights were viciously attacked by Alabama state troopers. He also led voter registration drives and directed the Voter Education Project.

Lewis began his own political career as a member of the Atlanta City Council, and since 1986, he has represented Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. For 13 years, he worked to promote the federal legislation that created the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall in Washington.

Ira Lubert, Colleen Wyse and Dr. Steve Klasko

Ira Lubert, Colleen Wyse and Dr. Steve Klasko

Phladelphia Mayor Jim Kenney calls Lewis “an inspiration to people all over the world.” Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, describes Lewis as having “helped to extend the blessings of liberty and equality to all Americans.”

Among the attendees at the Liberty Medal Ceremony were elected officials as well as other civic and philanthropic leaders. The Liberty Medal itself was sponsored by Ira Lubert, trustee of the National Constitution Center and co-founder of the firm Lubert-Adler.

Photos by Bonnie Squires.
Channel 6 ABC will air the Liberty Medal Ceremony on Sunday, October 2, at 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday, October 23, at 1:30 p.m.

Michelle Portnoff: Second Woman in Gratz College History to Chair Board of Governors

Michelle Portnoff, Esq.

Michelle Portnoff, Esq.

Gratz College welcomes the new academic year, not only with new students and new programs, but also with many new faces on the Gratz College Board of Governors. In the last year alone, eight new people have joined the board, bringing the total number of members to 25. And this summer, board member Michelle Portnoff became only the second woman in Gratz College history to assume the role of board chair. [Read more…]

Elizabeth Warren Slams Trump Pay-to-Play Scandal

Sentor Elizabeth Warren, (D) MA

Sentor Elizabeth Warren, (D) MA

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts campaigned for Hillary Clinton and Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty in Philadelphia. At a Pennsylvania Democrats event in support of Clinton and Democrats up and down the ballot on campus at Penn, Warren outlined the high stakes of November’s elections for Pennsylvania families and urged Pennsylvanians to register to vote ahead of the October 11 deadline. [Read more…]