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.


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.


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).


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
Washington Office at (202) 224-4944
Nashville Office at (615) 736-5129

Sen. Bob Corker
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).

If you should be thinking of a, it is a fantastic concept to check one of these simple manuals to see wherever your school rankings.

Lots of people could possibly be dissuaded from creating essays and therefore the candidate pool might really be smaller in comparison with the scholarships that simply need an informational application. When an individual applies for faculty, he must publish an entry essay, that may reflect his skills and has to join up with the school. The composition must be very enlightening. Continue reading “If you should be thinking of a, it is a fantastic concept to check one of these simple manuals to see wherever your school rankings.”

If you should be thinking of a, it is a fantastic concept to check one of these simple manuals to see wherever your school rankings.

Lots of people could possibly be dissuaded from creating essays and therefore the candidate pool might really be smaller in comparison with the scholarships that simply need an informational application. When an individual applies for faculty, he must publish an entry essay, that may reflect his skills and has to join up with the school. The composition must be very enlightening. Continue reading “If you should be thinking of a, it is a fantastic concept to check one of these simple manuals to see wherever your school rankings.”

A Joint Statement in Rejection of Bigotry and Hatred


On October 28 two communities near to Nashville, our neighbors in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, will be the sites of rallies planned by several white supremacist hate groups. These groups promote a racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant agenda. Their sole purpose is to incite hatred targeted at African Americans, Jews, immigrants, refugees and other minority faith, racial and ethnic groups.

The Jewish Federation and its Community Relations Committee along with Nashville’s local congregations and other local Jewish organizations condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the despicable messages and activities of these hate-filled groups which seek to undermine the strength, vitality and cohesiveness of our diverse communities in Middle Tennessee.

We call upon all people of good will to reject the pernicious messages of white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and other forms of religious, racial and ethnic bigotry that will be on open and full display in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro on October 28. While their utterances are protected free speech it still remains our right and obligation to condemn and reject such speech in the strongest manner possible. At the same time, we call for restraint from potential counter protestors who, in their passion to reject the messages of hate speech, could find themselves in violent confrontation that only serves the purposes of the hate groups and provides them with the attention they seek but do not deserve.

Therefore, we reach out and appeal to our valued partners in other ethnic and religious communities to join us in forcefully condemning the planned events of the white supremacist hate groups in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro. We urge individuals, families and friends to join together in prayer and fellowship in churches, synagogues and mosques to communicate our common message—that together we will combat all forms of bigotry and hatred. We stand united in rejecting the assault of hate that stains our communities. By showing respect for all and ensuring our ability to continue to live in peace with the dignity that we are all entitled to enjoy we will not allow purveyors of hatred to disrupt the sacred bonds of community harmony.

Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee
Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation
Anti-Defamation League
Congregation Beit Tefilah Chabad
Congregation Micah
Congregation Sherith Israel
The Temple-Congregation Ohabai Sholom
West End Synagogue
Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable
National Council of Jewish Women, Nashville Section
Nashville Chapter of Hadassah
Akiva School
Gordon Jewish Community Center
Jewish Family Service
Vanderbilt Chabad
Vanderbilt Hillel

NJSJR Position Statement on Mass Incarceration

“You are slow to anger and quick to be appeased. For you do not desire the death of the condemned, rather, that they turn from their path and live and you wait for them until the day of their death, and if they repent, you receive them immediately.” (Machzor, Unetane Tokef)


“The United States incarcerates almost 25 percent of the prisoners in the entire world despite having only 5 percent of the world’s population. Hundreds of thousands of people are locked up not because of any dangerous behavior, but because they could not pay off a fine or were convicted of a nonviolent drug or property crime. These people are disproportionately poor people and people of color.

Racial bias, both implicit and explicit, keeps more people of color in prisons and on probation than ever before. One in three black men can expect to be incarcerated in his lifetime. Compare that to one in six Latino males and one in 17 white males. The effect of the War on Drugs on communities of color has been tragic. At no other point in U.S. history have so many people—disproportionately people of color—been deprived of their liberty.

Drug arrests now account for a quarter of the people locked up in America, but drug use rates have remained steady. Over the last 40 years, we have spent trillions of dollars on the failed and ineffective War on Drugs. Drug use has not declined, while millions of people—disproportionately poor people and people of color—have been caged and then branded with criminal records that pose barriers to employment, housing, and stability.

Problems like mental illness, substance use disorders, and homelessness are more appropriately addressed outside of the criminal justice system altogether. Services like drug treatment and affordable housing cost less and can have a better record of success. It’s time we got serious about pulling our money out of incarceration and putting it into systems that foster healthy communities.

Incarceration triggers a cascade of imperiled rights not only for former prisoners, who face disenfranchisement, denial of housing, the inability to find work and food insecurity, but also for their dependents. Mass incarceration of people of color have devastating and debilitating effects on communities of color.”

NOTE: This text is copywritten, so any references to it should be attributed to the American Civil Liberties Union.

NJSJR Thanksgiving Newsletter

As we approach another Thanksgiving… with the traditional sitting around the table reflecting on all of which we are grateful for having, we thought it timely to share a few Thanksgiving thoughts.

1. During the Holiday Season, beginning this Thanksgiving and extending into the new year, the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) is inviting people from all over the country to take part in its Revive Civility Initiative by “Setting the Table for Civility.” NICD and more than 80 national and local partner organizations, including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, urge you to make a special effort to pause and reflect this holiday season on the need to heal the divisions in our country and take action by asking each other the three questions highlighted below:

(More tools for group conversations can be found at http://www.revivecivility.org/)

2. Thank you to all who responded to our call for action to reach out to our two Senators on tax reform. With the House bill passed, and the Senate about to pass one of its own before reconciliation of both begins, your shout outs to Senators Corker and Alexander were timely given the threats tax reform in their current iterations pose to the critical safety net programs in place that help millions. If you haven’t made your calls (see our last newsletter) please consider doing so. Contact info for our Senators follows at the end of this newsletter.

3. While on the conversation about reaching out to elected officials, please consider making one more call… to our Senators again to ask them to please sign on to the Dream Act of 2017… a bipartisan legislation that would allow around 1.5 million U.S.-raised immigrant youth to earn lawful permanent residence and start on a path to American Citizens upon meeting a set of criteria. The Administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has placed 800,000 Dreamers at risk of deportation. The Dream Act of 2017 would rectify this decision. Various versions of the Dream Act have been introduced at least ten times. They have passed either the House or Senate, but not both in the same Congressional session. The current version, while certainly not perfect, improves upon previous bills and is prudent legislation that creates a needed pathway. It is critical that Congress stand up for these youth and take swift action to replace fear and uncertainty with permanent protection!! It needs to be passed as a stand-alone bill. Contact info for our Senators follows at the end of this newsletter.

Please accept our wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. In the weeks after we will be sharing more detailed information about our plans to engage members of our Roundtable more directly in social action.

— Avi Poster, Irwin Venick, and The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable Steering Committee

Sen. Lamar Alexander
Washington Office at (202) 224-4944
Nashville Office at (615) 736-5129
Also email David Cleary, his Chief of Staff, at David_Cleary@alexander.senate.gov

Sen. Bob Corker
Washington Office at (202) 224-3344
Nashville Office at (615) 279-8125
Also email his Todd Womack, his Chief of Staff, at Todd_Womack@corker.senate.gov