Women’s Leadership Network Letter: Take Action Now on VAWA

— by Ann F. Lewis and Barbara Goldberg Goldman

Reports are circulating that the House of Representatives will be voting on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as early as tomorrow. VAWA provides crucial protections to victims of domestic violence and there is no excuse for not reauthorizing this important bill.

Since it was first introduced in 1994 by then-Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), VAWA had been repeatedly reauthorized with strong bipartisan support — until last year, when Republicans blocked reauthorization because it expanded protections to same sex couples, Native Americans living on tribal reservations, and undocumented immigrants.

When the Senate voted this year to reauthorize VAWA, it received more Republican “no” votes that it did last year — including from 22 male Republicans. Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans have demonstrated that even protections from domestic violence are not exempted from their subservience to the right wing of their party.

Domestic violence is a sad reality for too many women — we cannot afford to let VAWA fail in the House!

As the co-founders of NJDC’s Women’s Leadership Network, we urge you to take action now by calling your Representative and encouraging them to pass the Senate’s version of VAWA.

Too many women are counting on VAWA for us to be silent.

What Mourdock’s Rape Comments Mean for Jews

— by Ann Lewis

“And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”— Richard Mourdock, U.S. Senate candidate from Indiana

For Jewish voters still thinking about their vote for President of the United States, these comments should sound a loud warning bell: Not because we disagree with Richard Mourdock’s views, or his right to express them — but because he wants to write his own theology into law, imposing his own opinion of God’s will over those who believe differently.

Disturbingly, Richard Murdock has company at the top of the Republican Party. Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan explained that he also wants to outlaw women’s ability to make their own decisions – even in such tragic cases as rape or incest. Ryan said,

“I’m very proud of my pro-life record. I’ve always adopted the idea that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.”

And presidential nominee Mitt Romney, while announcing that he disagrees with Richard Murdock, has also said that he would be “delighted” to sign legislation that would ban all abortions and strip women of their right to control their bodies.

More after the jump.
And yet Republican partisans, especially those who tell us that they disagree with these positions, claim that attention to women’s health is a diversion — not a real issue. They liken women’s health to a “side show” — as if it were a carnival attraction.

Women’s health and well being is not a “special interest” or a “side issue” or even a “social issue!” The trauma of rape is not easily overlooked by the women who are victims. Serious people cannot consider rape as just one “method of conception!”

The ability of women and their families to be able to choose their own personal options is an essential part of women’s ability to live fully human lives. That means protecting our right to make our health care decisions, according to our own faith, — and yes, our own opinions about what is God’s will!

Richard Mourdock didn’t just reveal his own confusion between his personal beliefs and the role of lawmakers in a democracy — he also reminded us of the importance of the 2012 election.

Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) wrote that the

“the next president likely will nominate one or more new Supreme Court justices… The next Senate will be tasked with confirming or rejecting the President’s Supreme Court nominees….”

The decisions that we make this year will determine our laws and how those laws are interpreted in the courts for years to come, impacting our children and our grandchildren in their own life choices.

For American Jews proud of our nation’s history of religious liberty, this approach to lawmaking is especially dangerous.

We have learned through experience to be wary of those who seek to legislate their own interpretations of religious authority.

Will we now allow one particular interpretation of “God’s will” to be written into law? Is this the legacy we want to leave for our children and grandchildren?  

Not if I can help it.

Ann Lewis was Communications Director for President Bill Clinton and a Senior Adviser to Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. She is a member of the National Jewish Democratic Council’s Chairman’s Council. This editorial appeared in The Huffington Post.

Academy of Music 155th Anniversary Concert and Ball


Major movers and shakers in Philadelphia’s economy were among the 1500 supporters at Saturday night’s 155th Anniversary Academy of Music Concert and Ball, including (left to right) Ron and Rachelle Kaiserman, Robert and Caroline Zuritsky, and Renee and Joe Zuritsky.

— by Bonnie Squires

Philadelphia’s premier white-tie event took place at the historic Academy of Music, preceded by receptions and dinner at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue.

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 155th Academy of Music Anniversary Concert and Ball featured the debut on the Academy of Music stage of. Music Director Designate Yannick Nézet-Séguin , with special guests multiple Grammy Award®-winners singer/pianist Diana Krall and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Tipping its hat once again to the first Academy concert, the program was a mix of popular and classical music, just as the 1857 opening concert was.

Jazz performer Krall surprised the audience by calling back on stage her friend and collaborator, Yo-Yo Ma, to the delight of everyone.

More after the jump.


Terese Casey, wife of Senator Bob Casey, and Felice Wiener

Yannick also had the Philadanco dancers, reflecting the rainbow of colores which lit the stage and columns of the Academy, perform to the strains of the orchestra.  A surprise finish was the appearance of the Society Hill Dancers, dressed in formal attire of the 1850s, doing a waltz.

The Jewish community was among 1500 supporters of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Academy of Music, an historic monument to music, opera and dance. The Gala evening began with a pre-concert dinner. Guests could choose from two exciting offerings this year: the President’s Cocktail Party and Dinner at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue, or a Dine Around option, which allows patrons to dine at selected restaurants along the Avenue of the Arts, or on their own. In a nod to the Academy’s early years, and in a unique departure from recent history, both the Anniversary Concert and the Academy Ball were held entirely within the Academy of Music. A “symphony in three movements,” this unique evening gave attendees the chance to celebrate the “Grand Old Lady of Locust Street” within her very walls.

Public officials attending the evening included Governor and Mrs. Tom Corbett, Senator and Mrs. Bob Casey, a number of city and state officials, and corporate, cultural, arts organizations and philanthropic foundation leaders.


Christina and John Saler

The gala was co-chaired by Joanna McNeil Lewis, president and CEO of the Academy of Music,  and John R. Saler, chairman of Stradley and Ronon’s Government Affairs Practice Group, who also serves on the board of the Philadelphia Orchestra.


Corbetts greet Richard Worley, chairman of the Philadelphia Orchestra, with Joanna McNeil Lewis and John Saler, co-chairs of the Academy of Music Concert and Ball, in the background.

In the receiving line with the co-chairs and the Corbetts were Richard Worley, chairman of the Philadelphia Orchestra board of trustees, and Allison Vulgamore, CEO of the Orchestra.

The energy of Yannick, the Orchestra, the guest artists and the dancers enthralled the audience.  And the impressive program journal, reflecting the support of various segments of the community, was the parting gift as people finally left the Academy balls, held in various sections of the Grand Old Lady of Broad Street.

Photos credit: Bonnie Squires.


More photos
David and Susan Lipson Ken and Nancy Davis Ron and Marcia RubinHelen and David Pudlin, Esq.
Sandy and David Marshall, with Dianne and Jeff Rotwitt Scott and Lynne Mason with friends Pat and Rob Schaffer Harmelin Group

Obama Names Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient

President Barack Obama named Gerda Weissman Klein, President George H. W. Bush and thirteen others as recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  The Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.  The awards will be presented at a White House ceremony early next year.

“These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they’ve excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place.  I look forward to awarding them this honor.”

The following fifteen individuals will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

1. Gerda Weissmann Klein

Gerda Weissmann Klein is a Jewish Holocaust survivor who has written several books about her experiences.  After Nazi Germany took over her homeland of Poland, Klein was separated from both her parents:  they were sent to Auschwitz and she to a series of labor and concentration camps.  In 1945, she was sent on a forced 350-mile death march to avoid the advance of Allied forces.  She was one of the minority who survived the forced journey.  In May 1945, Klein was liberated by forces of the United States Army in Volary, Czechoslovakia, and later married Army Lieutenant Kurt Klein, who liberated her camp.  A naturalized citizen, she recently founded Citizenship Counts, an organization that teaches students to cherish the value of their American citizenship.  Klein has spoken to audiences of all ages and faith around the world about the value of freedom and has dedicated her life to promoting tolerance and understanding among all people.


2. President George H. W. Bush

George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st President of the United States.  Prior to that, he was Vice President in the Reagan Administration, Director of Central Intelligence, Chief of the U.S. Liaison’s Office to the People’s Republic of China, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and a Member of the House of Representatives from the 7th District of Texas.  He served in the Navy during World War II.  President Bush and President Clinton worked together to encourage aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

More after the jump.

3. Chancellor Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. She is the first woman and first East German to serve as Chancellor of a unified Germany, which this year marks its 20th anniversary.  She has often said that freedom is the happiest experience of her life.  Chancellor Merkel was born in Hamburg but was raised in what was then Communist East Germany after her family moved to Templin.  Her political career began when she joined the new Democratic Awakening party in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  In 1990, as West and East Germany merged into one reunited country, her party joined with the Christian Democratic Union, and she was elected to the German parliament.  She has been chairman of the CDU since April 2000 and was recently reelected to another term.


4. Congressman John Lewis

John Lewis is an American hero and a giant of the Civil Rights Movement.  He served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), helped to organize the first lunch-counter sit-in in 1959 at the age of 19, and was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington.  In May 1961, he participated in the initial Freedom Ride, during which he endured violent attacks in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Montgomery, Alabama.  In 1964, he helped to coordinate the Mississippi Freedom Project, and, in 1965, he led the Selma-to-Montgomery march to petition for voting rights where marchers were brutally confronted in an incident that became known as “Bloody Sunday.”  Eight days later, President Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress, condemned the violence in Selma, and called for passage of the Voting Rights Act, which was enacted within months.  Since 1987, John Lewis has continued his service to the nation as the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th District, which encompasses all of Atlanta.


5. John H. Adams

John H. Adams co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1970.  Adams served as Executive Director and, later, as president of the nonprofit environmental advocacy group until 2006.  His tenure is unparalleled by the leader of any other environmental organization.  Rolling Stone writes: “If the planet has a lawyer, it’s John Adams.”


6. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou is a prominent and celebrated author, poet, educator, producer, actress, filmmaker, and civil rights activist, who is currently the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.  She has served on two presidential committees, was awarded the Presidential Medal for the Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008.


7. Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett is an American investor, industrialist, and philanthropist.  He is one of the most successful investors in the world.  Often called the “legendary investor Warren Buffett,” he is the primary shareholder, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.  Mr. Buffett has pledged that all of his shares in Berkshire Hathaway – about 99 percent of his net worth – will be given to philanthropic endeavors.  He is a co-founder of The Giving Pledge, an organization that encourages wealthy Americans to devote at least 50 percent of their net worth to philanthropy.


8. Dr. Tom Little (Posthumous)

Dr. Tom Little was an optometrist who was brutally murdered on August 6, 2010, by the Taliban in the Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan, Afghanistan, along with nine other members of a team returning from a humanitarian mission to provide vision care in the remote Parun valley of Nuristan.  Dr. Little and his wife, Libby, lived and worked  in Afghanistan for three decades beginning in 1976, raising three daughters and providing vision, dental and mother/child care to the people of that country through the NOOR program (Noor means “light” in Persian) that Dr. Little ran for the International Assistance Mission.


9. Yo-Yo Ma

Yo-Yo Ma is considered the world’s greatest living cellist, recognized as a prodigy since the age of five whose celebrity transcends the world of classical music.  Born in Paris, Ma was a child prodigy who went on to study with Leonard Rose in New York.  He made his Carnegie Hall debut at age nine.  He was the recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize in 1978, and, in 1991, Harvard awarded him an honorary doctorate in music.  He serves as Artistic Director of the Silk Road Project, and has won sixteen Grammy awards.  He is known especially for his interpretations of Bach and Beethoven, and for his ability to play many different styles of music, including tango and bluegrass.  He serves on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.


10. Sylvia Mendez

Sylvia Mendez is a civil rights activist of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent.  As an eight-year-old, her parents attempted to enroll Mendez in an all-white school in their community, but were denied entry at and were told to go to the school for Mexican children.  Her father and other parents sued and prevailed.  The Mendez v. Westminster case was a landmark decision in the civil rights movement against segregation.  Mendez currently travels around the country giving speeches on the value of a good education.


11. Stan Musial

Stan “The Man” Musial is a baseball legend and Hall of Fame first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.   Musial played 22 seasons for the Cardinals from 1941 to 1963.  A 24-time All-Star selection, Musial accumulated 3,630 hits and 475 home runs during his career, was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player three times, and was a member of three World Series championship teams.  Musial also served as the Cardinals’ general manager in 1967, when the team once again won the World Series.


12. Bill Russell

Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics’ Captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball.  Russell led the Celtics to a virtually unparalleled string of eleven championships in thirteen years and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times.  The first African American to coach in the NBA-indeed he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States-Bill Russell is also an impassioned advocate of human rights.  He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality.


13. Jean Kennedy Smith

In 1974, Jean Kennedy Smith founded VSA, a non-profit organization affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center that promotes the artistic talents of children, youth and adults with disabilities.   From 1993 to 1998, Smith served as U. S. Ambassador to Ireland, and played a pivotal role in the peace process.  Smith is the youngest daughter of Joseph and Rose Kennedy and is the Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Kennedy Center.


14. John J. Sweeney

John J. Sweeney is the current President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO, and served as President of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009.  The son of Irish immigrants, a domestic worker and a bus driver in the Bronx, he worked his way up in the labor movement to become President of the Service Employees International Union, growing the union to serve as a strong voice for working people.  As President of the AFL-CIO, he revitalized the American labor movement, emphasizing union organizing and social justice, and was a powerful advocate for America’s workers.


15. Jasper Johns

American artist Jasper Johns has produced a distinguished body of work dealing with themes of perception and identity since the mid-1950s.  Among his best known works are depictions of familiar objects and signs, including flags, targets and numbers.  He has incorporated innovative approaches to materials and techniques, and his work has influenced pop, minimal, and conceptual art.