“All the words have being given by a single Shepherd, one God created them, one Provider gave them, the Lord of all deeds, blessed be He, has spoken them. So make yourself a heart of many rooms and bring into it the words of the House of Shammai and the words of the House of Hillel, the words of those who declare [certain things to be] unclean and the words of those who declare [those same things to be] clean.” (Tosefta, Sotah 7:12)
Nashville has long been a warm and welcoming community. Some trace its history of hospitality back to Civil War times. Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable supports diversity in Nashville. Judaism teaches us to welcome the stranger. The commandment to love and protect the stranger is repeated 36 times in the Torah, more than any other commandment. Additionally, stories in the Torah give us guiding examples. The commitment to diversity is especially meaningful today in Nashville because it defines the character of the city. Community leaders embrace the commitment. They make a point of appearing everywhere without regard to race or religion of the constituency. NJSJR applauds this on-the-ground commitment. People who follow this precept get elected. Conversely, NJSJR condemns racism and bigotry as antithetical to Jewish values and dominant Nashville values. We pledge to back efforts supporting diversity and oppose discrimination of any kind.
“The more sitting [and studying], the more wisdom.” (Mishna Avot 2:7)
For decades, every major city has attempted to reduce the disparity in educational achievement between those in poverty and the more affluent. Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable is eager to support efforts by Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and others in the community to address the issues. School districts have been trying, but progress has been limited. A well-educated population would be a boon to every community. With the number of technical job openings in Nashville increasing, education must be a high priority. Those without a good education will remain mired in poverty which often leads to trouble in school, drug involvement and other crimes.
Several programs are in place to address challenges and opportunities. Academies of Nashville completely overhauled the programs and the curriculum of every comprehensive high school to offer learning addressed to career paths as well as to college preparation. MNPS is collaborating with Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in an extraordinary Pre-K program with learning centers at Ross, Bordeaux and Casa Azafran. Community Achieves brings wraparound services to schools, which serve as a hub for the community the school serves. In 2014-15, 14 schools served 11,865 students. Five more were to be added this year. Mayor Barry has committed to tripling the number of Community Achieves schools. PASSAGE, Positive and Safe Schools Advancing Greater Equity, addresses the disparity in discipline between white and minority children in schools. NJSJR encourages the continuation and expansion of forward-looking initiatives that strengthen public education in Nashville.
“Every argument that is for the sake of heaven, it is destined to endure.” (Mishna Avot 5:17)
NJSJR agrees with the Tennessee Department of Education that objective discussions of world religions are essential components of the world history curriculum for Tennessee students. An understanding of history and culture helps students make sense of their world. It would be impossible to separate studies of the major religions from meaningful studies of history, government, literature or current events.
It is not the role of public schools to promote or proselytize any religion. It is our belief that curriculum guidelines as proposed by the Tennessee Department of Education can be effectively implemented without compromising the belief systems of individual students and families.
“You shall not stand forth against the life of your neighbor.” (Leviticus 16:16)
There are approximately 280,000 Tennesseans without access to health care coverage. They do not qualify for TennCare/Medicaid or Medicare and do not earn enough to qualify for income tax credit subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Therefore, they cannot afford insurance through that program. With no access to health insurance, people go without other necessities to afford care or wait until their situation becomes catastrophic. Medical debt is the most common cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.
NJSJR supports Insure Tennessee, the plan crafted by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Under Insure Tennessee, people aged 19 through 64 who are not otherwise eligible for Medicaid and have family incomes that do not exceed 138 percent of the federal poverty level, could qualify for assistance that would enable them to obtain health insurance. This plan would be paid for through the federal match under the Affordable Care Act. Should federal contribution be reduced below 100 percent, the gap would be covered by the Tennessee Hospital Association. Thus the state would pay nothing for this assistance. Since Jan. 1, 2014, Tennessee has forfeited over two billion dollars in federal assistance and continues to forfeit $2,700,000 per day. NJSJR considers it to be unconscionable that Tennesseans continue to suffer, when our legislature will not pursue a remedy at hand.