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a time when money is tight, that Nashville would be at risk of loosing $1.2 million in grant money if the order was not rescinded.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/.