Tuesday evening’s stunning game-changing election serves as evidence that creating a Jewish voice for social justice in Nashville could not have been timelier.  Now at risk of being dismantled are more than a decade of progressive social programs that addressed critical human needs.  Dashed is the hope that a more enlightened outcome would have advanced health care, immigration reform, criminal justice reform, environmental issues, tax and financial reform, and more.  Instead this entire portfolio – and more – is threatened.  Equally unsettling is that after an election campaign filled with vitriol, racism and misogyny, we are now witnessing increased anti-Muslim, anti-Hispanic, even anti-Semitic rhetoric and episodes.  This past week we have witnessed a rise in hate speech and incidents of intimidation against minority communities throughout Middle Tennessee.  The tension feels stifling; many among us are sincerely frightened.

What are we to do?  The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable (NJSJR) needs to stand tall and vigilant on top of the watchtower: calling out misdirection and misdeeds, and registering our loud voice of opposition – even resistance – to Presidential and Legislative actions that we believe detract from the common good.  During the past year, the NJSJR Steering Committee has written policy statements, taken important positions, enlisted your help in calls to action, and created mechanisms for raising our voice: something we anticipate needing to do more often in the future.

Our immediate plan is to call our membership together in the weeks ahead to study and survey the new political landscape so that we can best be positioned to respond as needed.  We anticipate that will need to call on you to raise your voices with ours more frequently than we ever expected when we embarked on our journey for justice.  In the meantime, listed below are a few public events that we encourage you to attend.

As an FYI, J-Street has organized an online campaign urging President-Elect Trump to rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon as his Special Advisor and chief strategist and urging members of Congress to speak out against his appointment.  The Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations and civil rights organizations have called for the same.  The ADL says it opposes the appointment of Bannon because he and the alt-right movement that he represents are “hostile to core American values.”  While there has been no shortage of negative reaction to Bannon’s ascension to the West Wing, White Nationalists have hailed his appointment.  Under Bannon’s leadership the incendiary Breitbart News has espoused anti-Semitic and nationalist views and similar views have been attributed to him personally.  You can sign on to J-Street’s campaign at: http://act.jstreet.org/sign/keep-bannon-out-white-house/?aktmid=tm72829.ae37jO&nosig=1&rd=1&source=conf&t=1

We expect that the post-inauguration months will be a trying and active time for us.  To this end, we hope to build our capacity to raise a Jewish voice. To this end, please share this update with others you know and encourage them to join NJSJR by subscribing to our newsletter at www.JSJRnashville.org.

Wishing you a Thanksgiving table grateful for what you are fortunate to have, but fearful of what so many others may lose.

On behalf of the NJSJR Steering Committee,

Avi Poster and Irwin Venick




Public Lecture on his journey through and reflections of the Civil Rights Movement

Saturday, November 19 – 10:00am

Martin Luther King, Jr. Academic Magnet High School (613 17th Ave. N.)


Sunday, November 20 – 10:00am – 3:00pm

West End Synagogue

3810 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37205

Meet with Rabbis and Scholars to learn more about this year’s theme, Under the Same Sky:  “The Earth is Full of Your Creations.” 

Register at http://community.jewishfederation.org/site/Calendar?id=104406&view=Detail


With Mayor Megan Barry

The Temple – Congregation Ohabai Sholom

5015 Harding Pike

Wednesday, November 30; 7:00pm – 8:30pm

Confronting the Uncomfortable Realities of Poverty, Homelessness, and Race Relations


December 6, 2016; 5:00 – 7:00pm

Celebration of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and Recognition of Human Rights Honorees

First Amendment Center

1207 18th Ave South #200

Reserve free tickets at NashvilleHumanRights.org

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NJSJR November Newsletter

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The Presidential campaigns being waged today are unlike any most of us have ever seen. Rarely have we been given more fundamentally different choices than the ones currently before us. This year, more than in half a century or more, the two candidates offer a choice, not an echo. Each candidate promises to carry with them to office clear differences with regard to health care, social security, minimum wage, the distribution of tax burden, the treatment of undocumented residents, Supreme Court appointments, criminal justice reform, a women’s right to choose, and so much more. Without trying to be too dramatic, the 2016 election has richly earned the right to be called a “watershed political moment” and will possibly be the most consequential presidential election in our lifetimes. Early voting began this week and extends through Nov. 3, with Election Day on Nov. 8. Here’s a link to the polling schedule:


We urge everyone to not only vote but to urge others within their reach to do the same.

In the past month the NJSJR has been working to research and refine our policy statements and prepare for future convening events centered on issues important to our membership. We fully expect, in the weeks following the November elections, that public policies will emerge that will warrant our raising our collective voice.

In the meantime, there are a few upcoming community events that we thought our membership might consider attending.

RECOGNIZE THE STRUGGLE: Saturday, October 22nd – 11am to 1pm First Baptist Church East Nashville – 601 Main Street, Nashville Middle Tennessee State University professors Dr. Louis Kyriakoudes and Dr. Louis Woods will explore how Southern regional migration and federal housing policies influenced the settlement of Northeast Nashville. In addition, the Honorable Judge Richard H. Dinkins

CELEBRATE THE LIVED HISTORY: Saturday, October 29th – 11:00am to 1pm Nashville Public Library, Main Branch – 615 Church Street, Nashville A panel of community experts will share memories of life in Northeast Nashville’s African American community. The program will utilize the Library’s special collections to explore methods of preserving neighborhood history that directly address the complex issues of cultural erasure and gentrification.

THE TEMPLE/VANDERBILT HOLOCAUST LECTURE SERIES: Father Patrick Desbois Tuesday, October 25th – 7:00pm Vanderbilt Langford Auditorium – Vanderbilt Campus/2209 Garland Ave. – Nashville Father Patrick Desbois is a Catholic priest and author of “The Holocaust by Bullets.” Father Desbois has devoted his life to researching the Holocaust, fighting anti-Semitism and improving Christian-Jewish relations.

NASHVILLE ORGANIZED FOR ACTION AND HOPE (NOAH): THE PEOPLE’s PLATFORM: ***Highly recommended by NJSJR Leadership Sunday, October 30th – 3:00pm Temple Baptist Church – 3810 Kings Lane – Nashville In addition to reviewing the progress on reaching its goals made this year, this event will feature a conversation with Mayor Megan Barry and other city leaders around NOAH’s central issues: affordable housing, criminal justice issues, poverty reduction, workforce expansion and workplace improvements.

“HOLOCAUST BY BULLETS” EXHIBIT: Exhibition Open to the Public October 14th through November 2nd 2016 The Temple/Congregation Ohabai Sholom – 5015 Harding Pike, Nashville This exhibit is open to the public (group tours can be scheduled). It is based on 12 years of research and investigation by the French organization Yahad-In Unum and its founder, Father Patrick Desbois. The exhibit chronicles a lesser-known side of the Holocaust through eyewitness testimonies, photographs, and maps. This exhibit takes place in conjunction with Father Debois’ lecture at Vanderbilt’s Langford Auditorium on October 25th. For further information about the exhibit or other programs in the Vanderbilt/Temple Holocaust series contact Danielle Kahane-Kaminsky (danielle.kahane-kaminsky@vanderbilt.edu).

NASHVILLE PUBLIC DEFENDERS COURT WATCH PROGRAM: Tuesday, November 15th – 8:00am to Noon Public Defenders Office – Parkway Towers Bldg. – 404 James Robertson Parkway – Nashville – Suite 2022 Following an orientation and short education session, walk a block to the Metropolitan Nashville Court House where you will witness what happens in our courtrooms every day. Sit in on actual court proceedings and see the criminal justice system in action. This is a great opportunity to get a taste of what it is like to face criminal charges and be forced to make a hurried and pressure-filled decision to take a plea or fight the charges. Court Watch takes place on the third Tuesday of each month. For more information, contact Sara Sharpe at SaraSharpe@jis.nashville.org

CONGRESSMAN JOHN LEWIS: “The March” – Open to the Public Address Saturday, November 19 – 10:00am Martin Luther King High School – 613 17th Ave. N., Nashville Renown hero of the Civil Rights Movement, Rep. John Lewis will discuss his New York Times best–selling graphic novel trilogy “March” during a free public lecture. A graduate of what is now American Baptist College and Fisk University, Lewis was a leader in the Nashville student-led, nonviolent sit-in movement and the Freedom Rides in the early 1960s. He was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington and was at the forefront of the Selma to Montgomery March as part of the voting rights movement in 1965. He remains one of our nation’s most important voices on civil and human rights. The “March” trilogy chronicles the enduring impact of the Nashville Civil Rights movement and his role in it. It was written to engage a new generation of readers in civil rights history.

Sunday, November 20 – 9:30 to 3:30
West End Synagogue – 3810 West End Ave., Nashville The Nashville Jewish community will hold its fifth annual Global Day of Jewish Learning on Sunday, Nov. 20 at West End Synagogue and again will feature a visiting scholar from the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. Online registration is available at www.jewishnashville.org.

That’s it for this month. Please share this update with others you know and encourage them to join us at: www.JSJRnashville.org

Avi Poster, Irwin Venick, and the NJSJR Steering Committee

NJSJR September Update


Dear NJSJR Members,

On behalf of the NJSJR Steering Committee … please accept our best wishes going into the High Holiday season. May Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur bring you an opportunity to reflect on the year past and prepare for what we hope will be a healthy and happy and healthy year ahead, filled with abundant joy and peace, for you and those you love. Shana Tovah.

We are very grateful to those of you who were able to join us at our July gathering. The turnout was impressive. A lot has been happening since we met. Our Steering Committee, using some of the suggestions we heard from you and our guest panelists, has continued to hone our statements on justice issues, consider upcoming events, and plan for future actions we can take before and after the November election.

Speaking of the November election, we don’t have to remind you of how important its outcome will be. If you haven’t registered to vote … you must do so on or before October 11 at (http://www.nashville.gov/Election-Commission/Voters/Voting-Information/Voter-Registration.aspx). In the past Presidential election, only 58% of eligible voters went to the polls, a showing so poor that it places the United States near the bottom when compared with other developed nations (Israel, by the way, ranks near the top). We are all too familiar with attempts to suppress voter turnout, largely aimed at poor, young, minority and immigrant votes. It is critical that everyone register and vote.

Much has been happening on the local front:

The Metro Council recently adopted meaningful policies that hopefully will advance the creation of desperately needed affordable and workforce housing. While the actions taken were not as bold as we had hoped, nevertheless what was adopted is a positive first step that will hopefully lead to more aggressive steps in the future.

In addition, a bill to reduce the penalty of possession of a half-once of marijuana, sponsored by Bellevue Councilman Dave Rosenberg, has moved through two readings and will soon be up for a final vote. As Dawn Deaner of our Public Defenders Office noted, this ordinance is an important and smart step towards criminal justice reform and offers a common sense alternative to criminal prosecution that leads to lifelong consequences, particularly for the most vulnerable among us.

As NJSJR has positions on both affordable housing and criminal justice, members of our Steering Committee have been actively monitoring and engaged in this legislation.

Lastly, there are several events taking place in the weeks ahead that we wanted to alert you to and encourage your participation.

On Saturday, September 24, at approximately 11:00am, Rev. Judy Cummings will address social justice issues related to affordable housing, economic equity, and criminal justice during Shabbat services at West End Synagogue. Rev. Cummings is a dynamic speaker long in the trenches fighting for justice issues.

On Tuesday, Sept. 27th, SURJ Nashville will meet at 7:00 at the East End United Methodist Church (1212 Holy Street). SURJ Nashville is a chapter of the national Showing Up for Racial Justice network and is devoted to organizing white people for racial justice in Middle Tennessee through education, outreach, and mobilization.

On September 30 – October 1 there will be an Action Summit: Restoring Justice in our City. This conference will address mass incarceration and foster restorative justice. Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund, will be the keynote speaker. This conference is open to the public and will take place at the Baptist Word Center (Baptist World Center, 1700 Baptist World Center Dr.). It is being jointly sponsored by American Baptist College, Vanderbilt Divinity School, and Metro Human Relations Commission. For more information, call (615) 322-5844 or email ctp@vanderbilt.edu.

On October 6, 2016, The Temple will host a Candidates’ Forum for Sen. District 20 with Sen. Steve Dickerson and Erin Coleman. Please contact The Temple for more information.

The Temple/Vanderbilt University Holocaust Series, Moving from Indifference to Action, will take place October 15 – November 12. In addition to many outstanding speakers and programs at the Temple and on Vanderbilt Campus, a moving exhibit entitled Holocaust By Bullets will be on display at The Temple (5015 Harding Pike) throughout the series. For more detailed information visit: http://conta.cc/2abNThT.

That’s it for this month. Please share this update with others you know and encourage them to join us at … www.JSJRnashville.org.

Again, wishing you the most contemplative and peaceful High Holidays ahead … and a very Happy New Year.

Avi Poster, Irwin Venick, and the NJSJR Steering Committee

July 21 Panel Event and Membership Meeting a Huge Success

A panel of three current and former Jewish Metro Council members told an audience of more than 40 people at the first Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable membership meeting on July 21 how their Jewish upbringing and values have affected their decisions as public servants.

Observer photo from NJSJR 7_21_16 meeting (2)

From left: Jim Shulman, Sheri Weiner and Ronnie Steine with Irwin Venick, moderator, also gave suggestions about how to be advocates with public officials on NJSJR issues and positions. Their advice: learn the issues that are before the council; attend public meetings; be a resource for council members; and get appointed to city boards and commissions. The meeting took place at West End Synagogue.  Anyone in the Jewish community interested in NJSJR can go to JSJRnashville.org to read the current position statements and join the group.



NJSJR Statement on Orlando Massacre

The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable is proud to stand for the equality and full inclusion into American society of all individuals within our community.  Jewish tradition tells us that to save a life is to save the world.  Yet, over the past year, we have watched the destruction of many worlds by anger, hatred, and individuals wielding military-grade hardware.

The recent shooting in Orlando targeted gay people who have experienced hatred, discrimination and exclusion, but have managed, slowly, to become a part of mainstream America.  They have fought the plague of HIV/AIDS that nearly killed off a generation.  They have fought for acceptance in the job and housing market and still face resistance from individuals, businesses and governments.  They have been willing to relinquish family ties to exist with pride in who they are.  Their world was destroyed when the bullets came.

Their pain and loss reverberate here, in Nashville.  In our sadness, NJSJR offers our support to the survivors of the massacre, family members of those killed, lovers, friends, employers, co-workers and all who knew and cared for these individuals.  We also extend compassion and prayers to the family and loved ones of the murderer who, for whatever reason, chose to inflict this devastation.

We at the Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable view the individual as one of G-d’s greatest creations.  We honor G-d and we support our Constitution when we respect the right of all people to live and prosper.

We call on everyone to look up from their phones, look out at the world and make decisions that lead to a safer, more loving environment for all of G-d’s children.

NJSJR Position Statement on Diversity

“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.

NJSJR Position Statement on Public Education

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.

NJSJR Position Statement on Teaching Religion in Tennessee Public Schools

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.

NJSJR Position Statement on Insure Tennessee

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.

NJSJR Position Statement on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21)

The Jewish experience as immigrants spans the history of civilization. Many of us are only two or three generations removed from the arrival of our own families in the United States. NJSJR believes that only bipartisan cooperation can ground and sustain our country’s core values of economic opportunity, refugee protection and family unification. For this to happen we must fix the broken and confusing American immigration system that adversely affects immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

As do virtually all Americans, NJSJR believes that we must safeguard our borders to protect the security of our nation, maintain the rule of law and create equitable entry opportunities into our country. But this is not enough. We need to create a streamlined legal immigration system that respects human dignity and human rights while responding to the economic needs of our country. We also need a pathway to legal status for the 11 million undocumented residents who, daily, fear separation from their families through deportation. Until such time as Congress moves to fix our broken system, we support President Obama’s relief efforts, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and lawful permanent residents).