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

Dreamers 

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.

MEDICAID BLOCK GRANT LEGISLATION

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.

CHILD POVERTY

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.

THE BATTLE TO END ABORTION

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.

CHANGES IN IMMIGRATION LAW

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

NJSJR December Newsletter

With Hanukkah and the New Year approaching, and some members of the NJSJR Steering Committee traveling, we thought we would get our last newsletter of the year out to you a bit early … sharing with you some bits and pieces regarding this topsy-turvy world we live in.

There are a couple of events we are involved in that we just want to put on your radar … with more information coming as they near.

  • Sometime in January the Roundtable plans to invite our members together for a conversation about the challenges faced by progressive candidates who run for office in Tennessee, especially in the non-urban parts of the state. We hope, through such a discussion, we can better position ourselves for elections in the future. We plan to invite at least four Democratic candidates in the recent election to tell us what they learned about Tennessee voters and offer guidance crafting our messaging moving forward.
  • We will also be inviting the Roundtable membership to attend a Circle of Friends event at Congregation Micah on Jan. 22, 2019. Circle of Friends is a nearly ten-year old Muslim-Jewish dialogue group that would like to open its doors to others. The event will be music centered … with performances singing messages of peace and friendship. An invitation will be forthcoming.

Particular applause goes out to a couple of members of our Steering Committee.

  • The ACLU of Tennessee honored Sally Levine with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her amazing portfolio of work in social and economic justice. Few among us have done more for the underserved and the underrepresented. Mazel Tov, Sally!!!!!
  • Also, congratulations to Josh Segal, another Steering Committee member, who, along with other young Nashvillians, created the WE REMEMBER NASHVILLE initiative to promote awareness, education, and public reckoning around racial terror in Nashville and to establish a permanent memorial to those who have suffered from it. To learn more about this effort, possibly join it, contact Josh at josh@spaceinch.com.

One action item you can stay abreast of is any further Senate action on the Administration’s controversial nomination of Thomas Farr for a lifetime judicial appointment as a United States District Court Judge in North Carolina. After Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Jeff Flake (R-Ari) announced their opposition, the Senate delayed a full vote because the GOP did not think it had enough votes to confirm. The vote has now been delayed and we are not certain when it will take place … but it will very soon. Farr has a legacy of working to disenfranchise black voters and restrict access to the polls. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Farr’s connection to hate groups and his record of fighting advances in black political participation spans decades. We urge you to contact Senators Corker and Alexander and urge them not to support his nomination:

https://www.corker.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/emailme

https://www.alexander.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email

If you are looking for another critical but easy to take action step in December … here’s something else you might want to do. Despite Republican control of Congress (until January), the Administration has failed at pushing through major legislation it wanted adopted that would dramatically reduce legal immigration. To accomplish the same goal, the Administration is now trying to use the regulatory process to bypass Congress by proposing regulations, known as the “public charge rule,” that will force families to make devastating choices between accessing essential public benefits they are by law entitled to or advancing their immigration status. The proposal will expand the list of public benefits people need or receive that immigration officers can consider in denying whether individuals can enter this country … or whether those here can request a change in their current legal status. This is one more effort by the Administration to limit that gets to come and stay here. If the “public charge rule” is enacted the use of programs like SNAP or Medicaid could harm immigration applications and status. We are already witnessed disenrollment from nutrition assistance and fewer medical visits. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is accepting comments from the public on this proposal until December 10.

Locally, the citizens of Nashville approved an amendment to the Metro Charter to establish a Community Oversight Board (COB) with respect to police activities. Please communicate with your Council representative and Councilpersons at Large that you support all efforts to establish the COB.

As we head into the New Year there are seemingly endless issues and concerns ahead that keep us awake at night and deserve our attention and action … nationally and locally. We worry about how refugees are being treated at the border and the future of DACA children awaiting our protection. We toss and turn every time we hear leadership minimize the climate dangers we face. We stir wondering if new Farm Bill mandates will be passed that will force thousand upon thousands struggling to survive to loose food and health benefits. Here in Nashville we wonder how a city that continues to boom can’t do more to provide opportunities and assistance for those in the greatest need. The list is seemingly endless and each of you can easily add your worries to it.

But we can be hopeful as well. With new leadership in Congress and an electorate that seems to be waking up, we can dream of more reasonable actions ahead. The Steering Committee is grateful that there is a Roundtable membership willing to let our city and beyond know that there is a Jewish voice in Nashville committed to advancing social and economic justice.

Soooo … as 2018 winds down we want to thank you for partnering with us. We wish you a Happy Hanukkah and a Happy New Year and we look forward to another year of activism in the fight for justice. In the year ahead we will continue to call on you to raise our collective Jewish voices through newsletters, calls to action, and occasional educational forums. The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, in just a few years, has risen to be a respected voice in our community and we thank you, our membership for that. May the year ahead be a good one … for ALL of us.

NJSJR November Newsletter

Now that the emotional and exhausting midterm elections are over (whew!!) our Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable Steering Committee is ready to get back to our advocacy and education agenda.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED

While many of us were hoping for bolder results, a lot of good came out of Tuesday’s election:

  • The change in makeup of the House of Representatives gives us hope that there will now be a check in place to respond to the advancing of the Administration’s agenda on so many social justice fronts. While we wish there could have been increased balance in the Senate, this is incredibly great news.
  • In 14 states, Democrats flipped a Congressional delegation, state Legislative chamber, or Governor’s mansion. In-roads were made in several others – like the Pennsylvania and Texas legislatures. A seat in Congress even flipped in South Carolina!
  • In California, voters approved both Propositions 1 and 2, creating billions in funding for the construction of affordable housing for the chronically homeless, people with disabilities or mental illness, and military veterans. Voters in Oregon passed two major ballot initiatives to make access to safe and affordable homes possible for 12,000 of the lowest income people in that state. Voters in Charlotte and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and in Bellingham and San Juan County in Washington State also passed housing bonds designed to address affordable housing.
  • Voters in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah all overwhelmingly passed measures to expand Medicaid coverage to all low-income adults, a critical tool for ending homelessness and helping hundreds of thousands gain health insurance they do not currently have.
  • Several key ballot measures were passed in more than a dozen other states demanding clean energy, improving access to health coverage, giving voting privileges to previously incarcerated individuals, ending partisan gerrymandering, improving access to voting, providing citizen oversight of police (e.g. the passage of Nashville’s Charter Amendment 1).
  • 45 million more Americans will live in states controlled by more progressive legislatures.
  • We witnessed higher rates of voter participation (especially among our youth and immigrant communities), including records for voting set here in Tennessee.

In addition to several key disappointments, including here in Tennessee, the election reminded us of the deep divide in our country … between urban and rural population centers. Just as significant as were the losses … several national wins are very encouraging. Truth be told, because of our ideological divide, our work is cut out for us. Fear of immigrants and concerns about centralized government interference is strong enough to encourage people to have voted even against their best interests.

WHAT’S NEXT

Sooooo … with midterms over it is time for us to return to our work at hand. Next Sunday our Steering Committee will meet to set our Roundtable’s course of action for the weeks and months ahead. In our immediate sights are issues addressing the improvement of health care and the adoption of Medicaid Expansion in Tennessee, the welcoming and treatment of asylum seekers and the improvement of immigration policies, limiting access to guns, and criminal justice reform. Our Roundtable has already joined coalitions including NOAH (criminal justice reform and affordable housing), the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Coalition and HIAS (immigration and refugee policy), A Voice for the Reduction of Poverty, the Welcome Home! Affordable Housing Coalition, and other advocacy organizations advancing the work we are most concerned about.

We are also interested in suggestions from our membership … please feel encouraged to email them to Avi (aviposter4@gmail.com) or Irwin (irwin.venick@gmail.com).

IN THE MEANTIME

Please link on to the Tennessee Health Care Campaign petition calling on Governor-elect Lee to lead our State Legislators in adopting Medicaid expansion. We were encouraged this week to learn that on Tuesday Idaho, Nebraska Utah, and Maine joined those states that already have expanded Medicaid. Tennessee is just one of 14 states which has not, leaving more than 300,000 hardworking Tennesseans without insurance coverage which facilitates access to better health care. You can support the petition campaign through this link: http://www.thcc2.org/action-center#/.

NJSJR August Newsletter

Elections: This is Primary Election Week … with early voting ending this Saturday and Election Day on August 2. Many of you will have or will be taking advantage of early voting (that ends this Saturday, July 28. It is critically important that everyone votes in this election (and every election). Please vote and encourage others in your family and friendship circles to do the same.

Community Oversight Board Charter Amendment: This week the Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable hosted and co-sponsored with The Temple Social Justice Committee a presentation from Community Oversight Now, a coalition of Nashville organizations supporting the creation of an independent oversight board to review citizen complaints concerning the police. Community Oversight Now is gathering signatures for a petition to have a referendum placed on the November ballot that will allow the voting public to decide whether to amend the Metro Charter and create a citizen’s oversight board. If enough signatures are gathered, the Charter Amendment will be on the November ballot.

The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable encourages its members to sign and submit a petition that will result in this issue to be publicly discussed and voted upon in November. Community Oversight Now is gathering signed petitions which will be submitted the Davidson County Election Commission by August 2, 2018. The Election Commission will then validate that the submitted signatures (matching names and addresses to voter registrations) are equal to or greater than 10% of voters in the last general election. To sign on as a supporter of Community Oversight Board Charter Amendment being placed on the November ballot you should print the petition on legal size paper and mail it to Community Oversight Now at P.O. Box 280962 Nashville, TN 37228. Here is the link to the petition.

Background information: There are 200+ citizen review boards similar to the one being proposed for Nashville. Currently, the Metropolitan Police Department (MNPD) investigates all complaints internally through its Office of Professional Accountability (POA) and the Police Chief ultimately decides on discipline that complies with civil service rules. The OPA is funded and staffed by MNPD with no external accountability. What is being proposed is a Community Oversight Board (COB) that would be funded by the Metropolitan Government outside of MNPD and be independently staffed by trained investigators. The eleven Board members, confirmed by the Metropolitan Council, would review and investigate citizen complaints of alleged police misconduct and send its recommendations for action to the Chief of Police. If the Chief chooses not to apply the recommendation of the Community Oversight Board, he must issue a public statement explaining his decision. This process for community review will be a model of transparency and accountability that will greatly enhance the public trust of and confidence in law enforcement officials (particularly among those currently feeling disenfranchised).

Voter Mobilization for Immigrant Rights: Following the recent massive immigration raid in East Tennessee, the Legislature’s passage of one of the country’s most extreme mass deportation laws, State Legislators suing the federal government to keep refugees out of Tennessee, and another cruel defeat of tuition equality legislation, Tennessee is at risk of becoming one of the most hostile and unwelcoming states in the nation. These state level attacks are happening as the President and his Administration continue to advance unconscionable and draconian policies, dismantling our immigration system. In face of these actions, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Coalition (TIRCC) is launching a new effort to get out the vote in the upcoming 2018 mid-term election. TIRRC plans to register and mobilize thousands of voters who share our values and want to build a more just and welcoming Tennessee for all. This effort, called TIRRC VOTES, will be launched on Monday, August 13, 2018 at Plaza Mariachi, 3955 Nolensville Pike, from 6:30 – 8:30pm. We encourage Roundtable members to support this effort and attend this launch. You can RSVP here.

Deserved Recognition: The YWCA recently announced those women who will be inducted into its Academy for Women of Achievement. The slate is composed of women who have served our community with great distinction. Among those being recognized this year are two women who have long stood with our Roundtable in support of issues we champion … Kasar Abdulla, Valor Academy Diversity Officer, and Beverly Watts, Executive Director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission. Our Roundtable salutes all who were selected … with special applause for Kasar and Beverly. The recognition will take place October 11, 2018.

On Medicaid Expansion

There are many pressing issues of the day… far too many. One that stands at or near the top of our Roundtable’s list of concerns is the adoption of Medicaid Expansion in Tennessee. Toward this end, we will be working closely with the Tennessee Justice Center, which will reach out to us when it needs assistance from our Roundtable membership. TJC will be working in the 2018 election cycle to help support Medicaid Expansion. When TJC alerts us of its needs, we will be sure to reach out to you in turn. Below is some information that will help you better understand why we all need to work hard, before and during Tennessee Legislative session, to do what we can to support Medicaid Expansion in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Legislature passed a law in 2014 that bars the Governor from accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage to uninsured working families. It’s time to repeal that law and put Tennesseans’ own federal tax dollars to good use. An April 2018 poll shows that Tennessee registered voters favor Medicaid expansion by three to one.

The following is the introduction given by John Seigenthaler, Jr. at a recent forum sponsored by the Tennessean and organized by the Tennessee Justice Center. We thought it represents a good overview of the position we are in:

For fifty years, Medicaid has been America’s safety net. Known as TennCare in our state, it provides prenatal and delivery care for over half of all infants born in Tennessee. TennCare covers half of all Tennessee children and nearly two thirds of frail seniors in nursing homes. Medicaid is the nation’s largest source of coverage for the treatment of mental illness and addiction and the principal insurer for children and adults with severe disabilities. In rural areas of Tennessee, TennCare is the largest source of health coverage, and it is a vital source of funding for the health care infrastructure in every community in the state.

But the Medicaid safety net has holes. TennCare only covers children and their parents, pregnant mothers, people with severe disabilities and seniors over 65. Even if you are very poor, unless you are in one of those categories, you cannot qualify.

That leaves hundreds of thousands of low income Tennesseans, including tens of thousands of veterans, uninsured. Most are working at low-wage jobs that do not offer insurance. Many are approaching retirement age, have serious health problems, but can’t yet qualify for Medicare. It’s a serious problem for those affected, and for the communities in which they live.

In 2010, when Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, it sought to mend the Medicaid safety net by doing away with the requirement that a person fit into one of those specific demographic categories. The law directed states to expand coverage to all residents with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level, which works out to about $16,500 a year for a single person, or about $22,600 for a couple. The expansion was to take effect in January 2014. The law provided that the federal government would cover 100% of the cost in 2014 and 2015, and that percentage would gradually decline to 90% federal funding in 2020 and all years after that.

In 2012, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress could not require states to expand their Medicaid programs, effectively giving each state the choice whether or not to expand.

In 2014, then-Representative Jeremy Durham sponsored a bill that the Tennessee legislature passed which prohibited the Governor from accepting the Federal funds and expanding Medicaid without the Legislature’s prior approval. In 2015, Governor Bill Haslam asked the Legislature to approve his” Insure Tennessee” plan, which would use the Federal Medicaid expansion funds allocated to Tennessee to extend coverage to low-wage uninsured Tennesseans. The plan had a number of conservative features that distinguished it from regular Medicaid. The Hospital Industry agreed to pay the state’s share, which will rise to 10% by 2020, through an increase in a State assessment that hospitals already pay. The combination of Federal and Hospital Industry funding meant that the Governor’s proposal would have cost state taxpayers nothing. Nonetheless, the Legislature refused to approve it, and Tennessee remains one of only 18 states that still refuse to use their federal Medicaid allocation to cover their uninsured residents.

The remaining 32 states and the District of Columbia have put their Medicaid expansion allocations to use. Most states have simply expanded Medicaid eligibility, but some have designed their own more conservative coverage programs, along the lines proposed by Governor Haslam in 2015.

In effect, the States’ decisions whether to accept Federal funding to expand coverage has created two countries within the United States: one comprised of states that put the Federal funding to work covering the working poor and funding their health care economies, and another country (including Tennessee) which has not done so yet. That has created what researchers call a “natural experiment”. After four years, there is enough data to compare these two groups of States and assess the impact of States’ decisions on health access, health status, state and local health resources, health care costs, jobs and the economy, and state and local government budgets.

This is not just an academic concern. Polling tells us that health care and health costs are among the issues of greatest concern to Tennessee voters. The decision whether to accept the Federal funds cuts across other important issues as well, such as jobs, the economy, the opioid epidemic and the challenges facing rural communities.

What follows are some basic facts provided to us by the Bring it Home Campaign, a non-partisan effort by organizations and individuals to educate Tennesseans and policy makers about the need to make full use of federal Medicaid funding to address Tennessee’s pressing health care needs, something our Roundtable heartily supports. The State law preventing Tennessee from using the Federal funds has been costly in numerous ways. Repeal of the law is urgently needed for the following reasons:

  • By the Legislature’s own estimate, Tennessee has lost – and continues to lose – $1.4 billion annually ($3.8 million/day) in federal health care funding. These are Tennesseans federal tax dollars that are being sent to Washington rather than being used here at home. 

  • That money would have generated 15,000 jobs, according to the University of Tennessee’s Center for Business and Economic Research.
  • That funding could sustain Tennessee’s hard-pressed hospitals. Though many hospitals are profitable, safety net facilities are in trouble. This includes Nashville General Hospital and more than two-dozen rural hospitals that are losing money and are in danger of closing. Tennessee has lost eight hospitals since 2010, and has lost more hospitals for its size than any other state. A national study of states that accept the Federal health funds shows that our Legislature’s bar on the use of those funds makes it six times more likely that a Tennessee hospital will be forced to close. The closing of a community’s only hospital reduces access to care for everyone in that community means the loss of a major employer, and makes it impossible to recruit new businesses to the area. 

  • The Federal funding would support services to prevent and treat opiate addiction, which has reached crisis proportions across the State. In 2016, a Legislative task force recommended changing the law to allow use of the Federal funds to cover uninsured Tennesseans with mental health and addiction problems, but the Legislature never acted on the recommendation.
  • The failure to use Federal health funds makes health insurance premiums more costly for everyone.
  • The Federal health funding would provide health insurance to 280,000 working Tennesseans, affording them the financial security and access to affordable health care that is only available to those with coverage. 

It is difficult to understand, given this information, why our Tennessee Legislature continues to oppose Medicaid Expansion. In the months ahead our Roundtable will assist the Tennessee Justice Center and others in helping change the view of Tennessee Legislature. We will keep you informed of calls to action and other steps we can take to assist in this process.

June 2018: What We’re Thinking About This Week

As are you, we are in a space somewhere between exhaustion and grave concern. We are all stressed in the shadow of actions harming children separated from their parents at the border, an anti-labor union ruling, the Supreme Court affirming the President’s ban of Muslims, the striping of protections for women, and the announcement of Justice Kennedy’s retirement making way for another opening on the Court for the President to fill. As the dust settles, however, we as a coalition of concerned people must continue on the journey we are on … to raise our voices against what is wrong around us. That is why we started our Roundtable and why we must continue to forge ahead.

This week the Supreme Court upheld the Muslim ban proposed by the President and his Administration. By a 5-4 vote, the majority held that the President was within his authority to enact a travel ban, which severely restricts the ability of certain foreign nationals and refugees to enter the U.S. It is difficult to imagine how hurtful this decision is for the Muslim community. Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg delivered scathing dissents both opining that reasonable observers could conclude that this ban was motivated by anti-Muslim animus. We are proud that of the four Justices that opposed the President’s ban, three are Jewish. We join those who fear that this decision and public policy will cause pain for those seeking asylum and refuge and for families living here who want to reunite with their relatives abroad, and that the green light the Supreme Court has given may lead to further restrictive policies. We encourage you to read statements made by HIAS’ (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) and by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs on the Supreme Court decision.

The Tennessee Justice Center is sponsoring a program about Medicaid Expansion on Thursday, June 28, 2018, 6:30 p.m. at the First Amendment Center. Tickets are available through this link.

There is going to be a local march to “End Family Detention” this Saturday, June 30, 2018 from 10:00 – noon. Participants will be gathering at The Dragon Park (aka Fannie Mae Dees Park – 2400 Blakemore) and then will walk to Belmont University where a program will be held. For more details please click here. This march is being sponsored by the Women’s March Tennessee – Power Together. We understand that this event falls on Shabbat and that some members of our Roundtable will not feel comfortable participating … but for some among us, participation, even on Shabbat, is an expression of deeply held Jewish values.

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), who we often link with, has announced a new initiative they will be kicking off in August called TIRRC VOTES. The purpose of this initiative is to mobilize and engage immigrants, refugees, and their friends and allies in the upcoming political election cycle. This new effort will counter the rising tide of nationalism and hate sweeping our state and country by investing in strategies that will build political power and influence, support equitable and inclusive public policy, defeat anti-immigrant candidates, elect champions of immigrant families and progressive policies. To find out more about this effort or to join it go to https://www.tirrcvotes.org/.

The President has nominated Ronald Mortensen for the position of Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), which oversees refugee resettlement in the US and acts as our top diplomat on issues of migration worldwide. Mortensen is a former fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a known hate group. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker is Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will oversee Mortensen’s nomination. Please take a minute or two to contact Sen. Corker to ask that he not push forward this nomination. If a name different than yours pops up when you link in, simply change it to your name and email.

Finally, the Senate is expected to vote on part of the Farm Bill this week. Unlike the corresponding House Bill, the Senate bill protects SNAP benefit levels and eligibility, and keeps food on the table of struggling low-income families. Please consider calling Senator Alexander and Corker today to urge them to vote to protect and strengthen SNAP by voting “yes” on the Senate Agriculture Committee version of the Farm Bill and to vote “no” on all harmful amendments that would cut or weaken SNAP.

Sen. Lamar Alexander
https://www.alexander.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email
Washington Office at (202) 224-4944
Nashville Office at (615) 736-5129

Sen. Bob Corker
https://www.corker.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/emailme
Washington Office at (202) 224-3344
Nashville Office at (615) 279-8125

There is so much out there for us to think about and respond to. Hope these suggestions resonate. Wishing you the best July!!!!!!!!!

NJSJR May Newsletter

The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable is monitoring a number of important local and national issues that we believe deserve our attention and, when timely, the raising of our voice. Events we recommend Roundtable members attending, and immediate actions we recommend taking, include the following:

  • After intense debate, the Tennessee General Assembly passed HB 2315, one of the country’s most extreme anti-immigrant bills. According to the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), while state and federal laws already require local governments and law enforcement agencies to comply with federal immigration law, HB 2315 goes much further. It is a sweeping measure designed to coerce localities to go above and beyond the law, turning every request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain someone into an unconditional directive and prohibiting localities from ensuring there is probable cause or a judicial warrant before denying a person his or her freedom. The bill also requires all law enforcement officers, even campus police, to inquire about immigration and citizenship status in even the most routine interactions. TIRRC is urging us to immediately contact the Governor and ask him to veto this bill because it will make Tennessee a more dangerous place for immigrant families to live and will only serve to give notice that Tennessee is not a welcoming state. Read TIRRC’s press release. Please consider calling Governor Haslam at the governor’s office (615-741-2001) to ask him to veto HB 2315 and/or email the Governor.
  • West End Synagogue’s Social Action Committee is hosting a free, certainly timely, public forum, The Opioid Crisis that will address key questions (What are opioids? How serious is the crisis? How did we get here? What can we do?). The event will take place at West End Synagogue (3810 West End Avenue) on May 10 at 7:00pm. Expert panelists speaking at the event will include Dr. Michael Baron, Medical Director of the Tennessee Medical Foundation, Mary Linden Salter, Executive Director of the TN Assoc. of Alcohol, Drugs and Other Addiction Services, and Kappu Deshpande, Assistant Fire Chief, Metro Fire Department. The event is free and open to the public. Dessert reception will follow.
  • The League of Women Voters of Nashville is hosting a timely presentation entitled Gun Violence From An Academic and Activist Perspective. The guest expert who will be speaking is Laurie Woods -Vanderbilt Lecturer in Sociology and a representative from Tennessee Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. She will speak on gun violence and how it impacts our community. No reservations are needed. The program is open to the public and will be offered twice … Monday, May 6 from 11:30am – 1:00pm at Good Will Lifsey Career Solutions Center (937 Herman St.) and Wednesday, May 9 from 6:00pm – 7:00pm at the Green Hills Library Community Room (3701 Benham Ave.).
  • According to legislation released this week, the Trump Administration confirmed it is seeking to impose work requirements, rent increases, and other burdens on millions of low-income families who receive Federal housing assistance through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The proposal would leave even more low-income people – including seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, children, and other vulnerable populations – without stable homes, making it harder for them to climb the economic ladder to achieve financial security and live with dignity. Cutting housing benefits will not create jobs that pay decent wages or other opportunities needed to lift people out of poverty. Instead, cuts would only make it harder for low-income people. Instead, Congress and the Administration should expand investments in affordable rental homes, implementing bipartisan legislation passed in 2016 to help incentivize earnings, and scaling up solutions that work. We are concerned about the cuts proposed and will be watching as the budget moves through Congress.
  • Of particular and immediate concern, the House version of the Farm Bill includes harmful cuts and changes to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). This legislation could be brought to the House floor as early as the week of May 7. SNAP is one of our most successful anti-poverty/anti-hunger programs. It provides critically needed support to nearly 8 million adults and 4 million children. What is being proposed will limit the assistance we are now giving and place untenable obstacles in front of people, including parents raising children, people with disabilities, older adults, and people who are working but struggling to get enough hours or get by on low wages. Food banks and other remaining assistance programs will never be able to make up for the loss families will experience. We need to make sure our legislators know that we support keeping SNAP strong. You can email or call to support SNAP to members of our Congressional delegation.
  • Governor Haslam has continued to advocate for the extension of federally funded health coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income Tennesseans. While he has not had success in convincing our State Legislature to support him, you should contact the Governor to thank him for his efforts and to encourage him to continue on his quest to expand healthcare to people in need.
  • Our Roundtable supports the work of other advocacy groups that address critical social needs. We encourage out membership to consider signing on to two of them … Welcome Home! The Movement for Affordable Housing and the Tennessee Justice Center. Welcome Home! is a coalition of Nashvillians advocating for a comprehensive, inclusive, and adequately funded plan to address the urgent need for affordable housing. The Tennessee Justice Center works strenuously to protect and improve healthcare policies and programs.
  • On the evening of May 23 at the Gordon JCC, The Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation will be hosting a conversation with representatives from the Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition to learning about the formation and current work of SPLC we will have timely conversation on racism in America and particularly in Tennessee. Among many other things, the SPLC monitors hate groups and other extremists through out the U.S. and expose their activities to law enforcement agencies, the media, and the public. We will share more information about this event as we learn it; just wanted to get it on your calendars.
  • Mayor Briley has embarked on a listening tour to hear, face-to-face, concerns of Nashvillians. He has had two such listening events so far with more scheduled. These are great opportunities to share your concerns and ideas with the Mayor as well as hear his responses to questions you may have. The remaining sessions will be at …  Coleman Park Community Center (Thursday, May 10 at 6:30pm), Whites Creek High School (Saturday, May 12 at 10:00am), and John Overton High School (Monday, May 14 at 6:30 pm).