February Newsletter

Medicaid Block Grant: Tennesseans across the state have stood up, including many Roundtable members who responded to recent NJSJR calls to action, to oppose Tennessee’s harmful Medicaid Block Grant proposal. While the Federal comment period has ended, we will have more opportunities in the future to be heard. Tennessee is the first state in the nation to ask the federal government to convert its current Medicaid programs (called “TennCare”) into a “block grant” which will be a major setback for those most in need. The Block Grant poses significant threats to the numbers who can be insured as well as the depth of coverage and protections they will receive (https://www.tnjustice.org/blockgrant/). Here are some ways you can continue to advocate:

  • Take 3 minutes to call Governor Lee (615-265-6090) and ask him to withdraw Tennessee’s Medicaid Block Grant proposal! Call Governor Lee to demand that he withdraw Tennessee’s Medicaid Block Grant proposal and instead lead an effort to actually address our state’s urgent healthcare needs. Click here to call Governor Lee TODAY.
  • Share this social media post to spread the word.

One of the many reasons we oppose block grants is that the state has already proven that they are capable of mishandling the moneys given to them. Lawmakers continue to examine, in astonishment, how the state amassed $732 million in federal funds intended to help low-income Tennessee parents get back to work. The state has responded with unacceptable reasons for this hoarding of dollars meant to serve the most vulnerable. Most lawmakers consider the explanations thus far provided as an incomplete portrait of how Tennessee accumulated the largest surplus of anti-poverty funds in the nation while 23% of the state’s children live in poverty.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement: “By encouraging states to cap federal funds for Medicaid expansion (through block grants), the Trump administration is fundamentally undermining Medicaid and jeopardizing access to health care for the most vulnerable Americans. Block grants would overturn the existing funding system, under which the federal government takes care of 90 percent of all costs for people covered by Medicaid expansion, effectively cutting federal funding and lessening the ability of states to cover the full cost of providing life-saving coverage for those in need of care.”

Immigration (National): With the President’s reelection campaign in full swing, the Administration is doubling down on his anti-immigrant agenda. We recently learned that the administration is expanding its travel ban to include citizens from six new countries. Even more alarming, we learned that the administration’s “public charge” rule temporarily took effect, giving the government a way to exclude people with disabilities as well as low-income families from our immigration system. Every day, thousands of people fleeing dangerous conditions are denied refuge as Trump tries to dismantle our asylum system. But there is something you can do right now to fight back … tell Congress that they should NOT use federal funds for the president’s new “public charge” rule. If this rule is implemented, immigrant families will be forced to choose between health care, food and homes, and a safe, stable future in the U.S. because using life-saving programs — like SNAP — could threaten their pathway to a green card in the future. Take 60 seconds to raise your voice with ours by clicking here.

Immigration (Tennessee): It’s not over. Despite Gov. Lee’s support for refugee resettlement, Tennessee is again going to be an anti-refugee battleground. At least five bills have been filed in the state legislature designed to reverse the Governor’s decision. We need to act on this … doing so will only take a minute to do. Please send a message to your state representatives and county commissioners telling them you support refugee resettlement and oppose efforts to undermine the Governor’s decision. To take action click here.

The Nashville Community Bail Fund: At a press release event this week, the Nashville Bail Fund and other local and national partners (The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, The American Civil Liberties (National), Civil Rights Corps, and the Choosing Justice Initiative) announced that they would be filing a federal lawsuit challenging Davidson County bail practices. Everyone – no matter how much money they have – has a constitutional right to due process under the law and is presumed innocent before proven guilty. On any given day, nearly 900 low income people sit caged in Nashville’s jails awaiting trial simply because they cannot afford to buy their freedom through cash bail. Since 2016, The Nashville Community Bail Fund (NCBF) has deposited bail in excess of $2,000,000 and freed over 1,000 people trapped in jail simply because they could not afford bail. Since its inception NCBF has operated on an exemption granted by previously sitting Davidson County Criminal Court Judges allowing it to receive a full refund of bail at the end of the case to use in helping others. Davidson County’s Criminal Court Judges recently revoked the exemption. The bail now deposited by the NCBF will be subject to court costs, restitution and fines, reducing the resources available to those who cannot afford bail. Without the exemption, the NCBF’s ability to help those without means to be released before trial to return to their families, places of work, and receive medical treatment will be seriously impaired. Research shows that when a person is held in jail pretrial, they are more likely to plead guilty, even when they are not, and/or receive a harsher sentence. The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable stands in strong support of this challenge by the NCBF.

A few sad slim to none musings …

  • Living Wage: The chances of the Tennessee Legislature passing an increase in minimum wage, or allowing cities in Nashville to pass local legislation to address a livable wage, are south of slim. Yet by this spring 24 states and 48 cities will have adopted a minimum wage of $15. Sad we are not yet among them.
  • Medicaid Expansion primarily covers low-income adults and has been proven to increase access to health care for the poorest among us. Vanderbilt recently released an extensive study that supports Medicaid expansion, clearly demonstrating that it unquestionably saves lives. This is coupled with the gigantic amount of evidence accrued that accepting Medicaid expansion is the financially prudent thing for our state to do. Medicaid expansion primarily covers low-income adults and has been proven to increase access to care and save lives. Yet the chances of our state adopting Medicaid expansion (even Kansas just did) are sadly south of slim.

Stand Against Racism 2020: The YWCA of Middle Tennessee is gearing up for its annual community-wide Stand Against Racism 2020 with activities leading up to a community rally and voter registration drive on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Here are three of the many activities you can participate in prior to the community rally:

  • Thursday, February 27, 2020, 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Panel Discussion | Music to Mobilization in a Racial Justice Movement. Register here.
  • Thursday, March 26, 2020,11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Lunch & Learn | Disenfranchisement, Voter Restoration & A Path Toward Racial Justice. Register here.
  • Tuesday, April 14, 2020, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Panel Discussion | Women in the Movement: A Multigenerational Conversation about Nashville’s Civil Rights and Racial Justice Movements (location TBA).

FYI … our Roundtable Steering Committee sent two messages to the Governor on behalf of our membership. In the first, we thanked him for supporting the resettlement of refugees in our state, an unpopular decision among his ranks. In the second we commended him for his proactive stance on extended paid leave for health and child care-related needs for state employees … an action we hope others will emulate.

Upcoming events you might want to consider:

  • Rabbi Jeffrey Meyers from the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh will be in Nashville as a guest of the Jewish Federation to speak at The Temple at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, February 10, about the traumatic experience the Pittsburgh community and his synagogue experienced when a gunman opened fire on worshippers. Given the rise in race-centric language and hate related actions against all faith traditions, it is timely that our community comes together to consider how difficult it is to live and grow up with racism of any form. This program is open to the community.
  • Human Trafficking: Our local Hadassah chapter is hosting a panel discussion at the JCC on Thursday, February 13, at 7:00 p.m., which will shed light on the dangers of Human Trafficking. The panel will include Judge Ana Escobar, Assistant District Attorney Sarah Wolfson, and a survivor of human trafficking. There is a suggested donation request of $18.
  • Gun Safety: On Wednesday, February 19, at 7:00 p.m., The Temple will be hosting a community presentation entitled “Walk the Talk on Gun Violence: A Conversation About Safety, Right, and Legislation.” WNPL’s Blake Farmer will moderate a panel of experts including Dr. Jonathan Metzl, author of Dying of Whiteness; Beth Joslin Roth, Executive Director of Safe TN Project; Kerry Roberts, State Senator; Rasheedat Fetuga, founder of Gideon’s Army; and a representative from the Metropolitan Police Department who will provide local statistical information.
  • March 3 Elections: All elections are critical … and we have another important one coming up. The Presidential Preference Primary and County Primary Election will take place on Tuesday, March 3. Early voting begins on February 12. Please be sure to vote and to bring others with you to do the same.
  • This year’s Community Relations Committee Seder, “Stronger Than Hate,” will celebrate our Kurdish community, the largest in the nation. The Seder will take place at the Gordon Community Center on Thursday, March 26. More details will be forthcoming … just wanted you to have this date on your calendars.

January Newsletter

Refugee Resettlement: In September, President Trump issued an Executive Order calling on states and municipalities to decide whether they will participate in refugee resettlement initiatives. Our Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable Jewish community, along with many in the organized Jewish community, stood strong in calling on Gov. Lee to continue keeping Tennessee as one of those states that will continue to welcome and receive refugees. Thankfully, on Dec. 18, 2019 Gov. Lee announced that Tennessee would continue to receive refugees. While the number of refugees being allowed into the U.S. is at an all time low, we are grateful that Tennessee is one of those states which, as our Gov. stated, “will continue to be a beacon of freedom and opportunity for the persecuted and oppressed.” The Roundtable sent the Governor a note of appreciation on behalf of our membership. Thank you to those of you who responded to our call to action and raised your voice on this issue. Our work ahead will continue in support of HIAS and TIRRC to renew our nation’s commitment at welcoming the stranger.

The Affordable Care Act: An appeal from the Tennessee Justice Center: A federal appeals court recently struck down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual mandate, while the fate of the rest of the ACA hangs in the balance. This ruling brings us one step closer to people with pre-existing conditions losing their health coverage and weakening their families’ financial security. The lawsuit by Tennessee and other states to get rid of protections for people with pre-existing conditions threatens to create chaos and fear. 1 in 3 adult Tennesseans has a pre-existing condition. The results of this lawsuit, if our leaders had their way, would be catastrophic. Health care in America could be thrown into complete chaos. Millions would lose coverage (including children), protections for pre-existing conditions will be eliminated, premiums would increase, older adults and women could pay more, and fewer prescription drugs could be covered, among many other consequences.Please email our state leaders and tell them to pull out of this case, so that Tennessee families don’t have to worry if a loved one will lose coverage.

Medicaid Expansion: Our Roundtable has paid close attention to health care for low-income people. We have partnered with the Tennessee Justice Center and have lobbied and issued calls to action in support of Medicaid expansion in Tennessee, to no avail. We are very concerned about Tennessee’s efforts to adopt a block grant. We, among many others, are concerned about how doing so will reduce opportunity for access to health. We are concerned about Tennessee’s disturbing record to date managing block grants. Our position was further supported by the results of a new study just released by Vanderbilt and Harvard Universities that concludes that not enacting Medicaid expansion makes it more likely that low-income will suffer from “plummeting health that jeopardizes their lives.” The study will likely fuel the debate over Medicaid expansion. Our Roundtable Steering Committee will continue to call on our membership to support the adoption of Medicaid expansion.

Better Angels: The Nashville Better Angels Alliance is hosting a series of conversations aimed at ending the polarization of the political divide in this country by bringing people together in conversation who view issues through different lenses. The purpose of these conversations is to better understand each other and work toward reaching common ground. Join Nashville Public Library and Nashville Better Angels Alliance for a free viewing of the documentary Better Angels: Reuniting America, which demonstrates how successful discourse across the divide can be realized. Upcoming screenings and conversations are being held from 6:00 – 7:45 p.m. at these local library branches: Bellevue Branch Library (January 14); Southeast Branch Library (January 21); and Edmondson Pike Branch Library (January 21).

The CRC will be partnering with Better Angels to provide information and opportunities for involvement from the general Jewish community at a Better Angels workshop on Sunday, February 2, 2020 from 1:30 – 3:45 p.m. at Congregation Micah.

MLK Day: The Jewish Community will again participate in Nashville’s annual Martin Luther King Day March. The event is open to the entire community, especially families and children. Transportation will be provided leaving from the Gordon JCC (9:15AM) and Elmington Park (9:30AM). The March begins at 10:00AM from the Jefferson Street Baptist Church. Bus space is limited. RSVP to Deborah Oleshansky, Director of Community Relations, at Deborah@Jewishnashville.org or 615-354-1637.

Tree of Life Synagogue Rabbi to Speak: Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers of Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh will visit Nashville for a Feb. 10 “Stronger Than Hate” program, 7 p.m. at The Temple. The event is presented by the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee and co-sponsored by all the local congregations and agencies — Beit Tefilah, Congregation Micah, Sherith Israel, The Temple and West End Synagogue — along with Akiva School, the Gordon Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family Service and Vanderbilt Hillel.

CRC/Social Justice Seder: Save the date: The annual Jewish Federation Community Relations/Social Justice Seder will be held on March 26 at 6:30. This year the CRC will be partnering with the Kurdish community. More information will be forthcoming.

December Newsletter

As has become our tradition, our Roundtable Steering Committee wants to end our year of action and education with our good wishes for a wonderful Chanukah ahead and the happiest and healthiest of New Years … one that includes our continued partnership aimed at making our city and country more just for all.

It would be nice to end the year on a positive note. Unfortunately, happenings in recent months have only served as a reminder of the work we have in the year ahead as a social justice organization. There are several things we are saddened by and will be paying close attention to in the New Year.

  • As were many, we were stunned to learn about the unfortunate major cut that was made to the Barnes Housing Trust Fund. This was due to serious budgetary challenges now facing our city, largely due to past spending practices and failure to address revenue opportunities. Especially worrying is that the cuts were not accompanied by a commitment to restore the funds in the future and move forward with the Mayor’s campaign promise on affordable housing. Groups supportive of affordable housing and concerned about the cut to the Barnes Housing Trust Fund will gather at the Metropolitan Courthouse, Tues., Dec. 17, at 5:00 p.m. You are encouraged to attend.
  • We were also taken aback to learn how badly Tennessee has managed federal dollars intended to help working families. It is shocking to hear that unspent funds could top $1 billion. The state has not spent roughly $300 million from a Federal Child Care and Development Fund that provides subsidies to working families, according to experts. That’s in addition to the $732 million from the federal government known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, that is intended to lift parents out of poverty. Unlike federal funding for TANF – which Tennessee can save indefinitely – the federal childcare funds have a “lose it or use it” provision. The childcare dollars revert back to the federal government, which redistributes the money to other states using the funds. A legislative committee has been created to propose a plan for the distribution of a portion of the funds. A group composed of advocacy organizations is monitoring the committee’s actions. Sen. Steve Dickerson and Rep. Harold Love, both representing Davidson County, are members of the legislative committee. You should consider contacting them encouraging them to be attentive to the advocacy organizations.
  • Tennessee serves roughly 880,000 individuals through the federal SNAP program. Up to 2,500 Tennesseans could lose food stamp benefits under a new rule being implemented next year by the current Administration. The change will take effect April 1, 2020, and prohibits states from exempting able-bodied adults without dependents from a work requirement to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Jewish organizations, including our Roundtable, have spoken up against these changes. The Federal rule change, first proposed in February, is expected to result in roughly 700,000 recipients being removed from the SNAP program nationwide.

A hearty Mazel Tov goes out to the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Coalition on the groundbreaking of its new home at 1409 Antioch Pike, nestled in the city’s highest concentration of immigrants. Recently named by The Scene as Nashvillian of the Year, TIRRC has grown to a staff of 24, with 40 interns and 700 annual volunteers.

A couple of action steps we can take before the end of the year:

  • The Federal comment period for TennCare’s block grant proposal is now open and will remain open until Dec. 27, 2019. The Block Grant discriminates against the sickest patients, creates incentives to cut TennCare and divert funding to other parts of the budget, and puts our already shaky healthcare infrastructure at further risk. The Block Grant is a not a serious answer to Tennesseans’ real health concerns. Click here to learn more about the proposal. The Federal comment period is the last, crucial opportunity to oppose Tennessee’s dangerous Medicaid Block Grant. The Federal government is required to consider all comments submitted during the comment period. If it doesn’t, the proposal can be overturned in the courts. Please click here and take a few minutes to write a couple of sentences about why you are opposed to the TennCare Block Grant proposal. It is important that our voices are heard.
  • Twenty-five years ago, Congress passed the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Congress has reauthorized VAWA three times since 1994, each time improving VAWA to better address domestic and sexual violence in the United States. This past April, the House of Representatives passed the comprehensive and bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 1585), but the Senate has failed to bring it to the floor for a vote. It is time it acted. The Reform Action Committee of the Reform Jewish Movement has called on us to join them in asking our senators to do just that. You can register your encouragement here.
  • Governor Lee will be deciding before Dec. 25, 2019, whether Tennessee will continue to support refugee resettlement. TIRRC is encouraging Tennesseans to contact Governor Lee’s office and encourage him to keep Tennessee a welcoming state. Please call Gov. Lee’s office (615-741-2001) with the following message: “I am a Tennessee resident and I urge you to keep Tennessee a welcoming state for refugees. I stand with refugees. Our state policies should support refugee resettlement.”

As the year comes to an end, we wanted to thank you for helping us raise a Jewish voice for justice in Nashville and beyond. Wishing you a joyous Chanukah and the Happiest of New Years.

November 2019 Newsletter


As a result of President Trump’s Executive Order on September 26, 2019, giving states and cities the option to refuse refugees, Governor Lee has until Christmas to provide written consent to allow refugee resettlement to continue in the state of Tennessee. It is up to us to ensure that he makes the right decision to keep Tennessee a welcoming state. If Governor Lee doesn’t affirmatively consent, refugee families in Tennessee will remain separated and others will not be afforded the opportunity to live in our state. In conjunction with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, the Roundtable Steering Committee encourages you to take a minute to call Gov. Lee and urge him to keep Tennessee as a welcoming state. Please call Gov. Lee at 615-741-2001 using a message such as “I’m a Tennessee resident, and I urge you to keep Tennessee a welcoming state. I stand with our refugee community and support policies that support refugee resettlement in Tennessee.”


TANF is a federally funded grant program that allows states to create and administer their own assistance programs designed to help families in need ultimately achieve self-sufficiency. Surprising to many of us, the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a conservative think tank, released a report showing that Tennessee has the largest reserve of TANF funds in the entire nation (unspent TANF funds are allowed to accumulate in state coffers). It is clear that while each state is charged with spending TANF funds (our annual allotment is approximately $190 million per year), and can do so in a variety of ways, Tennessee has scaled back the use of these funds to help families. For many years Tennessee spent most of the grant funds, but beginning in 2013 spending plummeted and we are now sitting on a huge reserve of $732 million … monies other states have used to combat the opioid crisis, subsidize child care for working families, workforce development, transportation assistance, and other supportive services. Under pressure from advocates, Congressmen Cohen and Cooper, and citizens like us … Tennessee now says it will work on a broader strategy to spend some of this money. We can do a lot better. The Tennessee Justice Center is the leading voice standing up for needed corrective action. We encourage Roundtable members to sign up for TJC news and action alerts.

COMMENT: The discovery of this unprecedented reserve of unused TANF money is deeply disturbing, especially in light of Gov. Lee wanting Tennessee to be the first state in the country to receive a similar block of money for Medicaid. Gov. Lee wants to use a Medicaid block grant to overhaul how TennCare (the state’s Medicaid Program) is funded … something President Trump is encouraging him to do. However, given what many of us consider mismanagement of TANF funds, there is well-founded fear that a Medicaid block grant would be similarly mishandled. It continues to be a shame that our state has simply not accepted Medicaid Expansion that would have provided increased numbers with the immediate medical assistance they need. This is the reason thousands sent comments to Gov. Lee that he is on a regressive healthcare trajectory.


In the United States, nearly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will survive some type of sexual assault or violence in their lifetime. Nearly every minute 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner. This amounts to a staggering 10 million individuals each year. Tennessee ranks 5th in the nation for the rate at which men kill women.

The Religious Action Center (RAC) of the Reform Movement is urging progressive Jews to urge Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Enacted to address the scourge of gender-based violence, VAWA is the United States’ most comprehensive resource for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. We are joining with RAC in to encourage Roundtable members to urge our senators to support the introduction and passage of a bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that strengthens our country’s commitment to protecting survivors of gender-based violence. Urge Senators Alexander and Blackburn to support the introduction and passage of a bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. It just takes a minute or two to send letters to our Senators here.


The Roundtable applauds the recent announcement by Sheriff Daron Hall to end Davidson County’s rent-a-bed agreement through which federal immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have used our local jail as a short-term immigration detention facility. “Sheriff Hall’s announcement moves our city closer to that goal,” said Bob Mendes, Metro Councilmember At-Large. “While this is only a first step, today, we can celebrate our city’s commitment to focus first and foremost on the work of local government and making Nashville a safer place for all our neighbors.” Sheriff Hall’s decision, which follows a summer filled with high-profile examples of ICE’s extreme and cruel deportation tactics, comes just as Nashville Metro Councilmembers were set to unveil an ordinance to achieve the same policy goal. The measure, sponsored by Mendes, had 15 co-sponsors: Councilmembers Emily Benedict, Russ Bradford, Sharon Hurt, Antoinette Lee, Freddie O’Connell, Sean Parker, Delishia Porterfield, John Rutherford, Sandra Sepulveda, Colby Sledge, Joy Styles, Zulfat Suara, Nancy VanReece, Ginny Welsh and Brett Withers. TIRRC Policy Director Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus said, “While ending this agreement will not completely prevent the jail from holding people for ICE, it is one step towards drawing a brighter line between federal immigration and local law enforcement.”

INFORMATION NOTE: In Nashville, foreign-born residents now account for nearly 13 percent of the population and more than a third of students in Metro Nashville Public Schools come from a household that speaks a language other than English. Of Nashville’s undocumented residents, an estimated 75 percent have lived in America for more than five years; a quarter of undocumented immigrants own a home; and at least 8,000 have at least one child who is a U.S. citizen.


Complexities of the Immigration System – November 14, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. For those interested in better understanding the complexities of the current immigration system, and what we can and should advocate for, we encourage you to attend a program that is being held at the Belle Meade United Methodist Church (121 Davidson Road, Nashville) on November 14, 2019 at 6:30pm. This program, Stronger than Hate, will be presented by TIRRC (the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition) and is free.

The Constitution Uncorked/Annual ACLU Dinner – November 14, 2019, 6:00 p.m. At this year’s Constitution Uncorked celebration, the ACLU will honor and applaud civil rights heroes – new and seasoned – from across Tennessee while celebrating the ACLU of Tennessee’s accomplishments. The night will feature music, poetry, the popular silent auction of autographed books, and a spread of heavy hors d’oeuvres and delicious drinks. It will take place at the Noah Liff Opera Centre, 3622 Redmon Street, Nashville. Tickets can be purchased here.

Caravan of Worship – November 17, 2019, Noon – 6 p.m.
The Fifth Annual Caravan Tour of Places of Worship, an intimate view of Nashville’s diverse community of religions, will take place on Sunday, November 17, from Noon – 6:00 p.m. It is open to all Nashvillians. Clergy and members from many faith traditions will share the basic tenets of their beliefs. This year’s theme is Beyond Tolerance: Peace, Love and Justice.  Two buses, arranged by the Metro Human Relations Commission and University School, will leave at noon from the Islamic Center of Nashville and return at approximately 6:00 … taking participants to each place of worship. The goal of this event is to create and celebrate multicultural awareness of the diverse Nashville community. For details about the schedule and to register click here.

Human Relations Awards – Cultural Connections – November 20, 5:30 p.m. The Metro Human Relations Commission is proud to join Community Nashville and Celebrate Nashville in bringing back the Human Relations Awards. On Nov. 20 at Mercy Lounge, Avi Poster (who is also co-chair of our Roundtable) and the Oasis Center will be the inaugural recipients of the updated concept. All ticket proceeds will go to supporting the Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival. Tickets are just $20 and can be purchased here.


Members of our Roundtable Steering Committee are reading Shadow Network recently released by Anne Nelson that helps to explain how, for the past 40-years, the conservative Council for National Policy has raised and had adopted issues and platforms based on conservative morals and ideology. Not for the lighthearted, consider this book should you be looking for additional holiday reading to learn more about current social justice issues. And here are a few other recommendations from the Religions Action Center of the Reform Movement.

Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis
Congressman John Lewis, who has represented Georgia’s 5th District since 1987, is arguably one of the most unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. Among many other commitments, Congressman Lewis planned and participated in sit-ins across the South, was a Freedom Rider, chaired the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), walked with Dr. King across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, AL, and is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His autobiography is a compelling, vivid remembrance of the people who led the Civil Rights Movement and a tribute to the necessity of the work that remains to be done today.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay is a laugh-out-loud-on-the-subway kind of author, but she also tackles serious and pervasive societal issues from the perspective of individual storytelling. Her ode to Channing Tatum and Magic Mike will make you cry with laughter, but several other essays in this book will have you crying because you’re so deeply saddened. Gay makes an ardent case for feminism of all stripes, and her writing especially underscores the necessity of an intersectional approach.

We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy Pearlman
Wendy Pearlman is an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University (Go ’Cats!) with a focus on comparative politics and conflict studies in the Middle East. Her latest book begins with a compact but incredibly rich recent history of the social and political backdrop in Syria that led to the current conflict. The remainder of the book comprises translated first-person narratives, unaccompanied by commentary, that move the reader chronologically through the conflict. Heart-wrenching but hopeful, this is a great read for anyone looking to learn (and feel) alongside our Syrian brothers and sisters.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Lindy West, a well-known comedian and culture observer, is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and her writing has appeared in dozens of other publications. She’s also widely known for her online activism, including co-founding the Shout Your Abortion campaign. Shrill is an excellent companion piece to Bad Feminist, exploring themes of body positivity, online activism, and working with artists – all from the perspective of a gifted female comic and commentator.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Author Anita Diamant is known for her nonfiction lifecycle events books and has written several fiction titles with social justice themes; this bestselling novel is perhaps her best-known title. It can be difficult to make biblical events feel real and relevant, but The Red Tent absolutely delivers, telling the little-known story of Dinah, the daughter of Rachel and Jacob. This book draws in readers from the first page; the complex relationships between family members, promises made and promises broken, and the sacred bond between women are deeply explored. You’ll feel like you’re truly living within the story every time you open the book.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Michelle Alexander, considered one of most important modern voices on racial justice and criminal justice reform, is a civil rights advocate, writer, and visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary. In The New Jim Crow, Alexander powerfully explains how the United States has perpetuated systems of slavery and segregation through a new form: the mass incarceration of Black men. This strategy has led to the United States having the largest prison population in the world and has continued the oppression of people of color throughout the country. This book is necessary reading for anyone seeking strategies for reforming the criminal justice system and working toward racial justice.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Whereas The New Jim Crow focuses almost exclusively on policy analysis, Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy is a powerful combination of policy and personal narrative about the tragic impact of the injustices in the criminal justice system. Reflecting upon his experiences as a civil rights lawyer, Stevenson shares the pain and suffering of innocent people in prison, men waiting on death row, and children sentenced to prison for the rest of their lives. While this book demonstrates Stevenson’s incredible passion and success in fighting for justice, it also reveals there is much more work to do to end mass incarceration. Check out the “RAC Reads” guide for this book, particularly for those who want to use reading guides as part of a communal read.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Often credited as being this generation’s James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates is a prolific writer whose honesty about being Black in the United States has opened countless eyes to the modern-day plagues of racism and oppression. Written as a long letter to his teenage son, Between the World and Me is an incredibly personal account of the many ways systemic and personal racism continues to prevent people of color from surviving and thriving in the United States. (Also worth a read: Coates’s newly released book, We Were Eight Years in Power, compiles eight of his most significant works during the term of President Barack Obama.) Check out the “RAC Reads” guide for this book, particularly for those who want to use reading guides as part of a communal read.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy
It’s never too early to introduce children to social justice concepts and this picture book about the Notorious RBG is a terrific place to start. Geared for 4- to 8-year-olds, the biography tells the story of Ginsburg’s life, focusing specifically on protests, disagreements, and dissents from the time she was a young girl through to her work as a Supreme Court justice.

October 2019 Newsletter

With the High Holidays over, our Roundtable leadership team will soon be going back to the planning table to guide us forward in addressing some of our community’s pressing social needs and plan for some public education events for our membership. In the meantime we wanted to call your attention to three issues currently at the forefront.


We have some terrific news to share with you. On Tuesday, October 1, the newly elected Metro Council adopted by acclamation (39-0) a non-binding Community Covenant aimed at addressing the reduction of poverty and improving work conditions for those people struggling the most. This Covenant was developed by A Voice for the Reduction of Poverty … an organization that our Roundtable supports as well as plays a role in with other coalition partners. This is a positive step forward for economic justice in our community, one we hope to build on with your continued help in the months to come. You can view the Community Covenant in its entirety here.

While largely aspirational, it is nonetheless a expression of intent by the Council to focus on critical poverty reduction policies and take actions … including the possible adoption of an “equity lens” as a tool and guide to use in budgetary and policy decision-making. Please consider signing up for the A Voice for the Reduction of Poverty emails here.


Mayor John Cooper announced on October 7, 2019 that he is rescinding former Mayor Briley’s controversial Executive Order on immigration. As you will recall, Mayor Briley’s order called on Tennessee lawmakers to repeal a controversial state law banning sanctuary cities and called on Metro officials to not work with ICE. It also directed Metro Legal to investigate the Tennessee anti-sanctuary city bill that became a law in 2018, without then-Governor Bill Haslam’s signature. Along with his rescission action, Mayor Cooper appointed a Task Force to study the issue in the next 60 days to “ensure (that) my Administration is aware of requests made by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and knows how to respond appropriately.”

Our Roundtable Steering Committee remains deeply concerned about the lifting of Mayer Briley’s order without a solution in place. We understand the pressure put on Mayor Cooper. He was told by the state, at a time when money is tight, that Nashville would be at risk of loosing $1.2 million in grant money if the order was not rescinded. However, we wish he could have insisted on an extension of Briley’s Executive Order so that the community Task Force he appointed could do its due diligence without our immigration community being at risk in the interim. Members of our immigrant community must now feel far more vulnerable as a result of Mayor Cooper’s decision. Our Roundtable urges the appointed Task Force to move with due haste and diligence and come up with a solution that will protect and secure our immigrant neighbors. We will be paying close attention to this and keep you in the loop with regard to what we learn.


Roundtable member Justin Kanew, the co-founder of the Tennessee Holler, often blogs with clarity about social issues. In a recent blog he shared his thoughts about Gov. Lee’s Medicaid Block Grant proposal that we think you should see. From Justin:

  •  Gov. Bill Lee’s possibly illegal Medicaid Block Grant proposal would put billions of dollars that Tennessee’s most vulnerable citizens depend on in his hands and the hands of the Tennessee Republican supermajority with few strings attached. The plan gives them the incentive to spend as few of those dollars as possible by finding “savings” the State would then keep a portion of.
  • Comments about the proposal have been mostly negative. The American Pediatric Association, the American Lung Association, doctors, patients, mothers, lawyers, state legislators, members of Congress (have) spoken … staunchly against what they see as a bad deal for Tennessee. It’s a deal that will hurt the people who need our help the most — seniors, children, the disabled and the poor.
  • The specifics of a block grant are vague and complicated, but the bottom line is that Gov. Lee and the state’s Republicans are asking us to trust that they’ll do a better job of stretching those Medicaid dollars without the Federal rules and oversight that are designed to protect those at risk.
  • Medicaid expansion would have been cost-free to Tennessee, yet his own party blocked former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan. In the aftermath 12 hospitals have closed, 300,000 people unnecessarily have gone uninsured, and we’ve lost $7 billion of our own federal tax dollars.
  • “I had hoped Governor Lee’s religious faith would’ve given him more of a heart for the poor, especially as we anticipate the Day of Prayer he has called,” Rep. Jim Cooper said at the public hearing in Nashville this week.


West End Synagogue’s Social Action Committee is seeking nominations for its annual Michael Mehlman Volunteer of the Year award. The honor will go to a West End Synagogue member who gives her or his time in support of social justice and hands-on efforts to improve life outside the Jewish community. Past recipients have been honored for work with the Nashville Adult Literacy Council, Martha O’Bryan Center, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, the Nashville Striders and the Room in the Inn.

  • The award will be presented during the WES Social Action Shabbat on Sat., Dec. 7.
  • A monetary award will be given to a charity or organization chosen by the honoree.
  • Deadline for submission of nominations is Mon., Nov. 4. The nominations must be written and must include the name, address and telephone number of the person being nominated and a detailed description of the volunteer’s service in the broader community. The person submitting the nomination must include his/her contact information.
  • For further information or to submit a nomination, contact Kitty Calhoon.


Please share this newsletter with others in the Jewish community you believe would find this information of value and encourage them to join the NJSJR at http://jsjrnashville.org/.

July 2019 Newsletter

We trust that you are enjoying your summer. Unfortunately, there is a lot more heating us up than the weather. Here are some July events to consider attending as well as some other musings regarding issues we are closely watching from your NJSJ Roundtable Steering Committee.


At-Large Candidate Forum: On Wed., July 10, from 6-8 p.m. (doors open at 5:30) the League of Women Voters and the Lipscomb College of Leadership and Public Service are hosting a Metro Council-at-Large candidates forum in the Paul Rogers Room in Lipscomb’s Ezell Center. Following brief opening statements there will be an opportunity to meet and speak with each candidate in a “speed dating” format. The Davidson County Election Commission will also demonstrate the new voting machines to be used in the August 1 election. You can register for this event here.

Mayoral Forum: On Sun., July 14, NOAH (Nashville Organized for Action and Hope) will hold a Mayoral Forum from 3-5 p.m. at The Greater Bethel AME Church (1300 South Street). We suggest you arrive early to park and register. Candidates will be asked to answer questions about and commit to working on NOAH’s central issues: affordable housing, education, and economic equity and jobs.

YWCA Stand Against Racism Lunch and Learn: On Thurs., July 11, the YWCA is kicking off its summer Stand Against Racism Lunch & Learn programming with an opportunity to learn how race impacts health, wellness, and the access to healthcare for people of color and marginalized communities. Speakers will include representatives from the TN Justice Center, Nashville Cares, the Lentz Public Health Department, and Meharry Medical College. This event will be held at the YWCA (1608 Woodmont Blvd) from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. RSVP here.

TIRRC Votes: On Wed., July 17, TIRRC VOTES will hold an Election Campaign gathering at Acme Feed and Seed (101 Broadway) from 5:30-7:30 p.m. for Metro candidates supportive of our immigration community. TIRRC VOTES is a new organization that works to strengthen and expand the influence of our immigrant and refugee communities and advocate for equitable and inclusive public policy. RSVP for this event to Leah@TIRRCVotes.org. This will be an opportunity for you to learn more about the TIRRC Votes campaign to elect progressive, pro-immigrant candidates.

Walk The Talk On Voting Rights: On Wed., July 17, at 7 p.m., The Temple is hosting a panel on voting rights moderated by the Tennessean’s David Plazas. Speakers will include Steve Dickerson, TN State Senator: Tricia Hertzfeld, Davidson County Elections Commissioner; Debby Gould, President of Nashville’s League of Women Voters; and Tequila Johnson, The Equity Alliance. This promises to be an illuminating conversation on the protections, suppression and restoration of voting rights.


Another Election Day

As hard as it is to believe, we will soon be back in the voting booth. Early Voting begins on Fri., July 12, at the Howard Office Building (700 2nd Ave. S) and at all Early Voting sites on July 19. We will be voting for Mayor, Vice Mayor, At-Large District and District Councilmembers. This is an extremely important election, as those we select for office will all be elected for four-year terms.

Nashville is at an important juncture. Our current and seemingly unabated rise is exciting and contagious. Testament to our growing vitality is the healthy tourism business, an influx of new corporate headquarters, a skyline filled with cranes, seemingly endless announcements of new projects and an influx of new residents. Beneath this glow, however, remain the nagging economic uncertainty and growing concerns of working families, many bordering on or in poverty, who struggle to afford living in our city. Coupled with this uncertainty are significant problems including a distressed city budget, increased income disparity, the need for affordable housing, improving our public schools, addressing our transportation woes, safety in our community and more. We need to elect candidates skilled to take on these problems and guide our city in the vision we have for it. Please be sure to vote … and encourage others to do the same.

For a more intimate look at candidates for Mayor and at At-Large Council seats, check David Plazas excellent interviews with each.

Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Rears Its Head.

Vitriolic messages were recently sent to Zulfat Suara, a candidate for Metro-Council-At-Large accusing her of bringing Sharia Law to our city, threatening her personally and telling her Muslims were not welcome in Nashville. In a published letter to the Editor of the Tennessean, Roundtable Co-chairs, on behalf of our organization, expressed our dismay.

Once again, the ugliness of intolerance has reared its head with vitriolic messaging being sent to Council-At-Large candidate Zulfat Suara. On behalf of The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable we condemn those who have recently communicated their disdain in the most inappropriate language for a candidate who has chosen to run for elected office because she is a Muslim woman. We have not witnessed such unwelcome and misguided commentary since the Metro Council considered “English Only” legislation a decade ago. It is something we had hoped never to witness again in this community. Zulfat Suara is a highly qualified, highly educated, and socially committed candidate for public office. If elected we have confidence that she would serve all of Nashville with great distinction. While many of the voices of prejudice are coming from outside of Nashville, they are echoed by far too many who live here. These voices have no place in the election landscape of a democratic society. 
– Avi Poster and Irwin Venick, Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable

Situation at our Borders

The Administration has declared war on undocumented immigrants entering our country or residing here. Those entering, including those seeking asylum, are being detained under deplorable conditions. Those living here are being threatened with roundups and deportation, and extremely heavy fines for not leaving. The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable will continue to denounce the inhumane conditions at immigration detention centers and border holding facilities along the Southern border, which, according to the American Bar Association, violate federal law and “common decency.” We will continue to urge the federal government to end the detention of vulnerable immigrants, end the “zero tolerance” family separation policy and the denial of due process to those in custody seeking our protection. We call for the release of those who pose no risk to the community and the improvement of detention conditions.


Asylum is a legal protection granted to people fleeing persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for protection, but has not yet received any legal recognition or status. We recommend viewing an excellent HIAS video explaining the American Asylum system. The right to seek asylum is guaranteed under U.S. and international law. However, the issue has become highly politicized in recent years and today asylum seekers who present themselves at a port of entry may be detained or turned away.

Census Question

The Supreme Court said “No”. The 2020 Census is being printed without it. And yet President Trump is insisting his Administration will find a way to ask on the census, for the first time in decades: Are you a citizen? Why this citizenship question is a big deal: Because it could scare off some in immigrant communities from participating in the census. Immigrant communities tend to be in cities in Democratic areas. So when politicians redraw electoral maps based on this new census data, those populations could be undercounted and thus underrepresented in state legislatures and in Congress. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 split decision that while the Administration has broad authority to ask what it wants on the census, it didn’t have a solid reason for asking this. The Administration is working hard to sidestep this decision to include a citizenship question, even considering an Executive Order to make it happen. We will monitor this closely and let you know if there are any action steps to take.

Human Needs

The Jewish Federations of North America joined 256 organizations representing millions nationwide in urging Congress to lift budget caps so that we do not turn our backs on providing vital services to our most vulnerable. The groups, representing faith organizations, human service providers, and those concerned about needs including health care, housing, nutrition, environmental safety, education, child care and more, called upon Congress to set domestic and international spending for FY 2020 at levels no less than the House totals. The House agreed on a FY 2020 cap for appropriations of $631 billion for programs other than Defense, and placed additional funds for programs including the 2020 Census outside the budget cap. “Unless Congress and the President agree to change the law by lifting rigid limits on spending, critical needs for housing, education, child care and public health and safety will face cuts we can ill afford,” said Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs. “The House has set spending levels that allow for more children, workers, families and seniors to get the help they need and to prevent painful steps backward. The Senate should agree on no less, and President Trump should sign such legislation without delay.” If current budget law is not changed, domestic programs will face cuts of about 10 percent in the fiscal year that begins October 1.

Block Grants

Despite vocal opposition from many individuals and organizations, including our Roundtable, Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation this year which could make Tennessee the first state to transform its Medicaid program to a block grant system. Proponents argue that doing so gives states more control over their health programs. Unfortunately, this legislation will be devastating for Tennessee’s already struggling rural hospitals and could further damage Nashville’s health care industry if other states follow suit. The bill passed largely along party lines by a vote of 26 to 6 the Senate, and a vote of 63 to 19 in the House.

And for a bit of good news, a hearty mazel tov goes out to the American Women’s Soccer team that won this year’s World Cup!

June Newsletter

Important and Timely Mayor/Council Election Forum
Monday, June 10 – 6-9 p.m.
Plaza Mariachi, 3955 Nolensville Pike

The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable is a proud co-sponsor of an election forum being organized by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). Mayoral and Council-At-Large candidates will share their thoughts on a variety of key issues, particularly those that impact new arrivals. Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable members are invited and encouraged to attend; please RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/1245317782311905/.

A Few Other Bits and Pieces


The U. S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday to protect Dreamers and establish a path to citizenship for more than two million undocumented immigrants. The Democratic-led chamber passed The Dream and Promise Act – the most significant, promising and inclusive step forward in many years. House members joined supporters in the gallery cheering “Sí se puede!” when the tally reached the adoption mark. If passed in the Senate, this bill would permanently protect Dreamers (undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children) and others from deportation. This is a huge step forward … as advocates have been trying to pass elements of this bill for the better part of two decades. Passage comes at an important juncture as the Trump Administration continues to slash family-based immigration and set impossible standards for low-income families seeking safety and freedom in the United States. Of critical importance, this bill serves as a standard against which any future immigration legislation must be measured. Unfortunately, while the House has shown the country that paying attention to the millions of immigrants who work, pay taxes, and have built their lives here is a high priority, the Senate has not. And given that the White House and GOP Senate leadership stand in opposition, it is unlikely that this bill will be brought to the Senate floor for a vote. If, or when, it does we will call on you to raise your voices loudly, most notably with Sen. Lamar Alexander who has previously shown some empathy for Dreamers.

Medicaid Block Grant Proposal 

As clearly explained in a Washington Post editorial, Tennessee is in deep trouble. Governor Lee has 180 days to submit the Medicaid block grant proposal to the Federal Government. If he does, and it is accepted, it will lead to Tennessee having to cut health benefits, reduce eligibility, or raise taxes. Please help us make sure Gov. Lee is hearing from his constituents by taking just two minutes to tell him that Tennessee needs to move forward on healthcare, not backward. It will take just two minutes to raise you voice with ours and tell Gov. Lee not to apply for a Medicaid Block grant. It will take just a minute or two to do this here.

Over 128,000 Children Have Lost Access to Care

Years of gains in covering children have been erased and the number of uninsured children continues to rise. The number of children without health insurance has risen in the past two years in large part due to Tennessee’s dramatic reduction in Tenncare coverage of children. Health care is vitally important for children. We know when kids are covered they are more likely to succeed in school and in life. If you know a family who has lost TennCare or CoverKids coverage for their child, they can call the Tennessee Justice Center at 1-844-479-KIDS (5437) for free assistance.

Women’s Reproductive Freedom

Our Roundtable remains committed to protecting women’s reproductive freedom. Over the last several months, states around the nation have enacted extreme anti-abortion bills. Though Alabama’s new law is the most extreme so far, other states, such as Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi (with Tennessee on the horizon), have adopted or are close to adopting bills that effectively ban abortion through “heartbeat” and other similarly restrictive laws. Our Roundtable is deeply concerned about the growing effort to overturn Roe v. Wade and limit women’s reproductive health care access. In the months ahead we will closely monitor this situation and take action with others when needed.

Metro Budget

During a public hearing at Tuesday night’s Metro Council meeting, citizens voiced support for the adoption of an alternative budget sponsored by Council Member At-Large Bob Mendes and Council Member Anthony Davis that includes a 52-cent increase to the property tax. The sponsors, and many others, believe that doing so will allow Metro to nearly double the funding proposed for Metro Schools and to avoid selling city assets to balance the budget. The Mayor’s budget, which does not include an increase, passed to third and final hearing on June 18. By law a budget, with or without a tax increase, has to be adopted by July 1. We suggest that you contact your Metro Council Member and the Council Members-at-Large and register your voice on the adoption of the Mayor’s budget or the alternative one proposed by Council Members Mendes and Davis.

We Remember Nashville – An Event of Interest 

A local group, We Remember Nashville, is working with the Equal Justice Initiative located in Montgomery, Al., to create a memorial in Nashville to remember those African Americans who were killed as the result of racial terror in Davidson County. A number of events are scheduled for the week of June 18, 2019, including and educational program on Tuesday, June 18, at the Public Library at 6 p.m. and the dedication of historical markers near the Metro Courthouse at noon on Wednesday, June 19. More information and tickets (free) are available here.

May Newsletter

In Tennessee we typically sigh in relief when our General Assembly session ends before it creates too much additional damage. Sadly, we seem to be most secure when our Legislature is not in session. The current session just ended with a flourish, given the Casada mess, leaving in its wake actions such as strengthening State control of the charter school approval system, adopting an educational voucher system, and threatening our well being and democracy with restrictions to voting access, steps to further undermine immigrant rights, and the loosening of gun restrictions.

There is so much to report on … to share with you … but these are some of the most glaring things on our minds as we head into the summer. We are grateful to have you as our partners and will be calling on you to raise you voice with ours in the weeks and months ahead.


Among the things we are most alarmed about are the steps taken to reduce Medicaid services and coverage by authorizing the governor to pursue a Medicaid block grant, legislation Gov. Lee touts as a means to control spending, but which further distances Tennessee from the Affordable Care Act. Tennessee is now the first state in the Union to embrace the new system of Medicaid funding supported by the Trump Administration which will undermine health care expansion. The good news is that block grants aren’t actually in operation yet as the program still needs to be approved by a sharply divided Congress. The process will likely be delayed by legal challenges at both the federal and state levels. We need to stand strong against block grants and continue the battle for Medicaid expansion.

A block grant will give state officials more control over how federal Medicaid dollars are spent and is not guaranteed to provide as much funding as the existing system. Currently, about one-fifth of Tennesseans get their health coverage through TennCare, which is largely funded with uncapped federal money, funding that can grow or shrink as more people join or leave TennCare. A block grant, however, is capped, creating the possibility that there will not be enough to support TennCare services if the program grows or health care costs continue to rise. This will result in less coverage for those without traditional health insurance. This would not have been at risk if the legislature had approved Gov. Haslam’s attempt at adopting something similar to the Affordable Care Act. Please share your thoughts with the Governor’s office.

NOAH (Nashville Organized for Action and Hope)

NOAH will hold its Delegates Assembly on Sun., June 2, from 3-5 p.m., to determine the issues the organization will focus on in the next three years. The event will be held at Greater Bethel AME Church. At its first Delegates Assembly in 2014 held at The Temple, NOAH membership voted to address Affordable Housing, Job & Economic Equity and Criminal Justice Reform. Much has been accomplished in these areas, although there is certainly more to be done. On June 2, the membership will determine if NOAH will continue to focus on these issues, add an issue, or refocus its work. If you are a member of a NOAH congregation (The Temple, West End Synagogue or Congregation Micah), please make plans to attend the important assembly. You will have a vote on how NOAH moves forward. Greater Bethel AME Church is located at 1300 South Street, Nashville, TN.


In this the wealthiest nation on earth, nearly 1 in 5 children live in poverty. Children often face inadequate healthcare and nutrition, untreated illness, unsafe childcare, unstable housing and inferior schools. Our Roundtable joins the cry that permitting nearly 13 million children to live in poverty when we have the means to prevent it is unjust and unacceptable, as well as economically and socially dangerous. The United States can eliminate the terrible human and economic waste of child poverty if we choose to fight it rather than ignore it. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, by investing an additional 1.4 percent of the federal budget into proven policies and programs, our nation can reduce child poverty by at least 57 percent, lift 5.5 million children out of poverty, and make an immediate down payment on ending child poverty for all children. As the national budget is scrutinized in Washington, our Roundtable Steering Committee will call on our membership to voice our opposition to any proposed cuts in the safety net and, instead, call on Congress to strengthen it.


Less than two weeks ago, Georgia joined Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Iowa, Louisiana, Utah, and North Dakota in banning abortion at six weeks or earlier, before most women even know they are pregnant. Then last week, Alabama banned all abortion from the moment of conception—with no exceptions, even for child rape victims. This was followed by the Missouri legislature voting to ban abortion at just eight weeks, with one Republican claiming that most sexual assaults are “consensual” rapes. Meanwhile, abortion bans have been introduced in at least 28 states, and the United States Senate is holding hearings on a nationwide, 20-week ban.

Here in Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee signed into law a trigger bill that bans abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade. Our Roundtable Steering committee will call on our membership to raise its voice in opposition to these disturbing actions. The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable strongly endorses and supports the JCPA STATEMENT issued earlier this week.


The Trump Administration recently unveiled its new plan “to create a fair, modern and lawful system of immigration for the United States.” It is anything but that. Our Roundtable stands strongly against this new proposal because it clearly tilts the nation’s immigration policies in favor of the wealthy at the expense of reuniting families. The proposal would make damaging changes to family-based immigration by implementing a “merit based point system” that prioritizes special skills and advanced education. The proposal would also require English language proficiency and passing a U.S. civics exam, among other things, and impose patriotic assimilation as a prerequisite to entry. What is also glaring is that the Administration’s new plan ignores any reference to addressing the 1.8 million undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children and protected from deportation during the Obama-era (DACA).

April Newsletter

Before sharing some news on the justice front please accept our warmest wishes to you and those you love for peace, health, and happiness. Happy Passover!! Chag Sameach.

Living Wage/Poverty Reduction

This past weekend A VOICE for the Reduction of Poverty held its Nashville Rising Forum. NJSJR was one of the co-sponsors. During the Forum speakers helped explain the landscape for those who work here but are not yet able to share in the economic rise Nashville has been experiencing. The Forum also addressed best practices taking place and presented a number of recommendations that would lead to improved conditions for those who have less. Because there was so much ground covered and a need to continue the conversation, a second session is planned for Tuesday, April 23, at the Martha O’Bryan Center on from 6:00 – 7:30. The goal of this convening is to gather business leaders, elected officials, community groups, concerned citizens, and local public and nonprofit sector agencies to develop recommendations and a moral/economic covenant that will lead to improving the quality of life for all Nashville residents through a livable wage. We hope you will mark this event on your calendars and will join this continued but needed conversation.

Implementation of New Disciplinary Policies in Metro Schools

NOAH’s (Nashville Organized for Action and Hope) Criminal Justice Reform Task Force will host a screening of the compelling documentary “Resilience: The Biology of Stress & The Science of Hope” directed by James Redford. The film demonstrates why it is important that the upcoming MNPS budget retain support for Student Care Centers in 12 high priority elementary schools. These centers allow children who are experiencing trauma and stress in their lives, which often leads to behavior issues, to interact with a caring teacher who can take the time to help them regulate their behavior and reduce stress through restorative interventions. Teachers also create student accountability measures that allow harm to be repaired and provide successful re-integration into the school community. The film will be followed by a panel discussion with principals and MNPS leaders currently working with students and these practices. The screening will be this Thursday, April 11, 6-8:00pm, at Clark Memorial United Methodist Church, 1014 14th Avenue North, 37208.

Getting the Progressive Message to Rural Voters

The NJSJR March 31 forum, “Do We Sometimes Feel Like Strangers in our Own Land” gave attendees a look into the struggle progressive candidates face to win votes in the counties surrounding Davidson. The firsthand information came straight from candidates who ran for office in November.

In their campaigns, Angela Hedgecough, Wade Munday, Holly McCall and Justin Kanew tried to appeal to voters’ self-interest on health care, employment and other issues. In many cases voters agreed with them in principle, but still voted 70-30 percent for Republicans. Yet, the speakers noted that it was the first time in a long time that progressive candidates ran for office in these counties … and it won’t be the last.

A new thrust will be getting new voters to understand the importance of registering and actually voting. For many in rural and poor communities, just getting to the polls is an issue. Without cars or public transportation, it is difficult. Also, people in these communities feel that government and politicians have not done anything for them, so why vote?

Bottom line: progressive candidates will need help and resources in convincing rural residents that their interests and well-being are the progressive agenda.

YWCA STAND Against Racism

On April 25th, the YWCA will hold its annual STAND Against Racism from 12:00-1:00pm at Public Square Park outside of the Historic Metro Courthouse. Speakers include Davidson County Chief Public Defender Martesha Johnson, MNPS Community Achieves Site Manager at Whitsitt Elementary Chris Echegaray, and Program Coordinator at American Muslim Advisory Council Sabina Mohyuddin. This annual event attracts a broad swath of our community in a strong communal statement against racism. This is yet another worthwhile event that warrants our Roundtable support. Many of us will be in attendance.

Help Preserve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

The Administration is on the verge of making an end run around Congress again, attempting to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) without congressional approval. The latest effort is a proposed rule that cut benefits by restricting SNAP eligibility by limiting states’ flexibility to help jobless or underemployed workers in struggling regions. This proposed rule is bad policy. By the Administration’s own estimate, enacting this rule would substantially increase hunger and hardship, stripping at least 755,000 Americans of food assistance—though other estimates suggest it could be more than 1 million. Furthermore, by cutting SNAP by $15 billion, the Administration would also be slashing more than 178,000 jobs over the coming decade. Making people hungrier will not help them find work any faster; it will only kick underemployed and unemployed workers when they are down. You can register your voice of opposition at https://handsoffsnap.org/. By law, every comment submitted has to be considered.

Oppose Cuts to TennCare

The Tennessee Justice Center is asking us to call on Gov. Lee to oppose drastic cuts to children’s healthcare in Tennessee. New proposed legislation will cut years of gains in helping cover health insurance for thousands of uninsured children. 30,000 children have already been removed from TennCare in the past year and we need to prevent this from happening to more. You can register your voice here.

Federal Effort to Repeal the Muslim/ Refugee Ban

A new bill—the NO BAN Act— will soon to be introduced by Senator Chris Coons and Congresswoman Judy Chu that would not just repeal the President’s Muslim, asylum, and refugees bans—it would limit the ability for the Administration or any post-Trump administration to do something like it ever again. We can lend our voice of support by signing the petition linked here.

Davidson County Election Commission Acts to Protect Voting Integrity

And some good news … the Davidson County Election Commission approved new voting machine purchases. Beginning with the August election, we will have new voting machines that have a paper trail that will give voters confidence in how they are voting or rather how their vote is being recorded. Other Election Commissions around the state are purchasing new voting machines as well. It is highly likely that the majority of new purchases will have a voter verified paper trail as well.

February 2019 Newsletter

Roundtable Members,

We are alerting you to three terrific learning opportunities and conversations that we hope you will attend. Please consider each and mark them on your calendars. Feel free to contact us for more detailed information. Here’s the scoop:

Opportunity One: The Immigration Crisis: Where Have We Been/Where Are We Going?

Clearly at or near the top of national concerns is what so many consider an immigration crisis. A forum open to the community is being convened on Thursday evening, February 28th, at West End Synagogue, that will examine the history of immigration in this country, the immigration community in Nashville, the struggles immigrants and refugees face, and what is needed to improve a system in great need of repair.

The Immigration Crisis: Flyer

Opportunity Two: Strangers in Our Own Land

On Sunday afternoon, March 31, at 2:00 pm, at Congregation Micah, the Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable is hosting a program called Strangers in Our Own Land. The purpose of this program is to better understand why voters in a state like ours vote as they have in the most recent state and national elections. While Davidson County remains largely blue … we often find it challenging to connect with our neighbors, particularly those who live in rural counties, who seem to support candidates and policies out of step with our values and their apparent self-interest. Rural voters often see urban voters trying to protect everyone but them … and often frame their decisions based of their fear of government intrusion. If we are to reach any reasonable agreement across the state, we first have to better understand why those outside of Davidson vote the way they do. Join us for a moderated discussion with candidates who ran for office in Middle Tennessee to hear what they heard from voters told them.

Opportunity Three: Nashville Rising – Work, Wages, and the Future of Nashville

It is unfortunate that while Nashville witnesses a rapid surge in development and opportunity, a large segment of our community is not enjoying the benefits of this growth. Wages for many have remained substandard and stagnant, neighborhoods are being rapidly gentrified, opportunities for advancement remain limited, the cost of housing has become increasingly out of reach. On Saturday, April 6, from 9:00am-11:30am, at the Avon Center on TSU’s downtown campus, the Voice for Poverty in Nashville is convening a forum, Nashville Rising Forum: Work, Wages, and the Future of Nashville, to examine how we can build a culture of “decency of work” for all who live and work in our community and create a shared vision and a community covenant that will serve as standards for what constitutes an ethical and fair workplace in Nashville.

Nashville Rising: Flyer

Some other bits and pieces …

On the health care front … as you know, the Tennessee Justice Center is the leading organizer voice supporting the expansion of health insurance for those without coverage. Our Roundtable is a proud supporter of its work. Recently members of our Roundtable Steering Committee attended a forum convened by TJC at which they learned that nearly 1/3 of Medicaid recipients in Tennessee will potentially lose coverage if they cannot meet the proposed stringent new work requirements included in Tennessee’s request for a Medicaid waiver. This is egregious. Please link on to the TJC’s Call to Action and sign its petition calling for legislative acceptance of federal funds to cover the 300,000 working Tennesseans without insurance and, thereby, stop the hemorrhaging of rural hospitals … https://www.tnjustice.org/petition/.

On the immigration front … it is getting really cantankerous out there … to say the least. In addition to the President’s all out effort to build a needless and expensive wall (paid by U.S. taxpayers), Tennessee Representative Bruce Griffey has filed several bills to bolster the President’s agenda. HB0562 seeks to impose fees on money transfers from Tennessee to Mexico and to create a fund to help support the construction of the President’s border wall. He coupled this bill with a resolution affirming that Tennessee supports the end of birthright citizenship. In addition, he has filed bills to deny vital prenatal care and supplemental nutrition assistance to undocumented, pregnant woman and place additional barriers on securing work. Along with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, NJSJR will monitor these mean-spirited measures and inform you of any action steps we think prudent.

On the poverty front … President Trump is trying to circumvent Congress on this front as well by working to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps). A new proposed rule released by the Trump administration would weaken SNAP and makes it harder for families to put food on their tables. This proposal would take assistance away from 755,000 people by making it harder for jobless workers and people who can’t get enough hours at work … a proposal that came just a year after the Administration cut taxes for the very wealthy. Tell the Trump Administration that every American deserves access to food by linking in to this site. By law they are required to read every unique comment made in the next 60 days … and we need to be among those comments. It only takes a minute or two to submit your own personal comments at https://handsoffsnap.org. If for some reason this link does not work, cut and paste the link to your browser.

That’s it for now. Hope to see you at the programs described above. Thanks for joining in action with us. Please feel encouraged to share this newsletter with others and ask them to join our mailing list at www.JSJRnashville.org.

On behalf of the Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable Steering Committee,
Avi and Irwin