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Contact: Rebecca Boim (#212/684-6950, x.202)
The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council is the national coordinating and advisory body for the 13 national and 122 community agencies comprising the field of Jewish community relations. On May 1, it changed its name from the NJCRAC to the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA).
JCPA TO ANNOUNCE RESULTS OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS SURVEY AT PLENUM
The plenum will take place February 21-25, 1998 at the Wyndham Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
(New York, January 12, 1998) -- Lawrence Rubin, Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) executive vice chairman, and JCPA chair Michael N. Newmark will hold a press conference to reveal the much anticipated results of the first JCPA National Public Affairs Survey. The JCPA leaders, noting the survey's coverage of a broad range of public policy issues, suggested that the findings "will influence the focus, priorities and agenda of the Jewish community relations field."
The JCPA will conclude its year-long study of vouchers with adoption of a policy paper on this issue. In addition, plenum delegates will kick-off discussion of this year's topic of examination -- Building One Nation: Race, Public Policy and Affirmative Action. "The JCPA will join President Clinton and the nation in exploring these complex and complicated issues," Newmark added.
On the international front, a senior Israeli Government representative will update the more than 500 Jewish leaders expected to attend this year's gathering on the status of the Middle East peace process. Delegates will then hear the views of the opposition Labor Party by its newly elected leader Ehud Barak.
Other programs at this year's plenum include: · In celebration of Israel at 50, an inter-generational dialogue and text study exploring the American Jewish community's relationship with Israel;
· A look at the increasing political maturity of the Hispanic community, Asian Americans and others and how these groups are affecting the political landscape featuring Michael Lind, senior editor of New Yorker Magazine and former senior editor of The New Republic;
· Congressman Floyd Flake (D-NY) and the Reverend Joan Campbell, secretary general of the NCC, will discuss the role of religious institutions in American life;
· Rabbi James Rubin, director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and Eugene Fisher of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops will discuss interfaith relations and the Christian Millennium;
· Will Maslow, General Counsel (former Executive Director) of the American Jewish Congress, will receive the JCPA's prestigious "Albert D. Chernin Award" for dedication to the Bill of Rights and the pursuit of social justice.
In the policy-making sessions of the plenum, delegates will debate the key domestic and international issues confronting the American Jewish community in 1998, including the Middle East peace process, religion in the public schools, child labor and the establishment of an International Criminal Court. The plenum also will adopt the JCPA's Jewish Public Affairs Agenda for 1998-99, the annual guide to priority issues and policy goals for the organized Jewish community.
The plenum exposes future leaders to the JCPA's public affairs agenda. A select group of young Jewish professionals and lay leaders will take part in the JCPA's "Leadership Institute" the weekend before the plenum, and over 300 college students will participate in the plenum as part of the Jack and Charlotte Spitzer Forum on Public Policy (sponsored by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life).
The plenum is the highest policy-making body of the JCPA, the leading multi-issue planning and coordinating body in the organized Jewish community. This year's event is co-chaired by Paul Minkoff of Philadelphia and Elaine Wishner of Chicago.
The deadline for hotel reservations at the Wyndham Resort and Spa is January 16, 1998. We urge you and your constituents to send in the plenum registration forms as soon as possible. We cannot guarantee rooms at the hotel after the 16th. Please contact Laura Furmanski (212-684-6950, x.200) for additional registration forms, brochures and meal reservation forms.
REVEREND JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL
LEONARD FEIN Director, UAHC Social Action Committee
At The Plenum --
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 1998
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 1998
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 1998
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 1998
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 1998
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 1998
(New York, June 25, 1997) -- Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) Chair Michael N. Newmark today released the following statement regarding the Supreme Court's decision handed down this week in the case of Agostini v. Felton: The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) is disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision to reverse its 1985 ruling in the case of Aguilar v. Felton. The organized Jewish community has been a staunch defender of this nation's historic commitment to the separation of church and the state as a bedrock constitutional principal of our nation.
We are troubled by any erosion of that principal, and will continue to monitor carefully any signs of the Supreme Court's willingness to weaken that principle. Because of our concern over that principle, we believe that the Court expressed the better view in its original decision in Aguilar, holding that public school employees who provided remedial education to parochial school students must do so off sectarian school property.
However, we note that the Agostini Court narrowly limited its holding to the context before it: The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which requires the government, among other things, " to provide remedial education, guidance and job counseling to eligible students...failing or at risk of failing the state's student performance standards." The Court noted with concern, as do we, "that Aguilar costs have resulted in a decline of about 35% in the number of private school children who are served." JCPA has always been supportive of the provision of remedial assistance to all eligible children, regardless of where they go to school.
We are pleased that the Agostini Court strongly reaffirmed the traditional three-part test for determining a church/state violation set forth in Lemon v. Kurtzman" and that the Justices made clear that "the general principles that we use to evaluate whether government aid violates the Establishment Clause have not changed since Aguilar was decided."
Finally, we note that the Court itself indicated that the Agostini decision is not necessarily determinative of the constitutional issues regarding vouchers. Rather, the Court's decision drew a distinct "line between supplemental and general education;" Indeed, the Court's analysis of the concerns raised by a public school employee providing remedial education under strict guidelines -- regardless of where the remedial education occurs -- is not readily applicable to the entanglement issues implicated by the diversion of public funds to religious institutions to fund part of its curriculum. While we urge all Americans not to give the Agostini decision more significance than it warrants, the case does remind those of us committed to the protection of religious liberty of the need to remain vigilant in our monitoring and advocacy efforts in support of religious freedom and the separation of church and state.
JCPA LEADER "DEEPLY TROUBLED" BY COURT'S RFRA DECISION
(New York, June 26, 1997) -- Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) Executive Vice Chairman Lawrence Rubin today released the following statement regarding the Supreme Court's decision handed down yesterday in the case of City of Boerne v. Flores:
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) is deeply troubled by the opinion issued yesterday by the Supreme Court in the case of City of Boerne v. Flores, in which the Court ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is unconstitutional.
(June 23, 1997) -- Consistent with our deep and abiding commitment to the protection of individual human rights, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) holds firm to the fundamental belief that all people should be free to worship as they choose. We are very disturbed by reports of torture and other forms of persecution directed at individuals because of their religious identity. We view the recent legislative initiative -- led by Senator Arlen Specter and Representative Frank Wolf -- intended to enhance the United States' role in combating persecution of religious minorities around the world, as a significant step in advancing our nation's commitment to an issue which has not previously received the attention it deserves.
The organized Jewish community will examine the particulars of this legislation in light of our long-standing support for the strongest possible U.S. human rights effort and consistent with our commitment to seek appropriate mechanisms for effective response to religious persecution and oppression. We will continue to work in close cooperation with coalition partners of all religious faiths in responding to this legislative initiative and to combat all forms of persecution and advance the cause of human rights.
(June 23, 1997) --Recent advances in genetic science have created hopeful new medical possibilities and have also raised serious concerns. As researchers race to map the whole human genome and identify mutations which might be predictive of the onset of disease, genetic tests, utilized within a controlled research environment and now commercially available, may determine whether an individual might hold such a marker. In the future, these new technologies may also be translated into new drugs and/or therapies for treating and/or preventing disease. At the same time that we are encouraged by health benefits to be gained from these new tests, there is also the possibility for abuse of the genetic information revealed and the potential for employment and insurance discrimination.
The Jewish community has become increasingly aware of these risks, which affect all people, primarily as a result of findings that mutations in two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer (called BRCA1 and BRCA2) may be more prevalent among individuals of eastern and central European Jewish descent -- i.e., Ashkenazi Jews. The initial research concerning inherited breast cancer risk among Ashkenazi Jews centered on families with a high incidence of breast and ovarian cancer for several generations and was facilitated by the availability of stored previously screened genetic samples from Ashkenazi families screened for earlier status for other diseases, such as Tay Sachs. While this population was chosen for research as a convenient early sample, possible BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations are found in higher than expected frequency in other population groups as well.
Because at this time there is no sure means of prevention against or cure for breast or ovarian cancer, the availability of genetic tests to determine the presence of mutations, and the corresponding degree of risk for disease, raises important issues for Jewish women and their families. Genetic tests for breast/ovarian cancer are not 100% predictive of the onset of disease. Furthermore, research to date has not provided an accurate way to assess any individual's actual risk. Indeed, the ability to reproduce, the sensitivity, and the predictive value of the tests are not fully known. While women who carry an altered gene might never develop the disease, all women have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer if they live to age 85.
Although inherited susceptibility genes only account for an estimated 5-10% of all cases of breast cancer, imprecise press accounts and other sources of misinformation have raised the specter that Jewish women have a unique and greatly heightened predisposition to this disease, creating fear and increasing the potential for insurance and employment discrimination. Moreover, testing one member of a family has implications for other family members, which may also serve as the basis for discrimination. Discrimination based on genetic information has a long and well documented history. Concern about discrimination is currently dissuading members of the Jewish community from participating in potentially important research projects.
The Jewish community has long supported the right of individuals to determine the course of their own medical inquiries and care, has actively participated in medical research aimed at ameliorating disease, and believes that there should be ample opportunity for individuals to participate in promising research studies. Indeed, we recognize the interest of both the scientific and biotechnology community in expanding their knowledge base in the quest to understand, prevent and cure cancer. At the same time, the Jewish community has a strong interest in abating fear and avoiding stigmatization or discrimination. There is a need, as well, to protect against the aggressive fear-based marketing techniques from companies providing genetic tests available on the commercial market. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) therefore believes that the organized Jewish community should:
(June 23, 1997) --The American flag is among the most important symbols of our freedoms. It stands for the rights which we cherish, among the most precious of which are those protected by the Bill of Rights of our Constitution. Freedom of speech -- which protects the right to speak our political views no matter how unpopular they may be -- is one of the most fundamental rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) believes that the principle of free speech protected by our Constitution and symbolized by our American flag is strong enough and precious enough to withstand even the most offensive speech. Among the truest tests of this principle is that even an act as abhorrent as burning or desecrating the flag is deserving of protection. To diminish that basic freedom in response to such acts would be to surrender to them.
The JCPA agrees wholeheartedly with Justice Brennan, who wrote in the 1989 case of Texas v. Johnson that flag-burning is protected speech because the "toleration of criticism... is a sign and source of our strength." Since 1990 -- when the Supreme Court struck down the Flag Protection Act of 1989 as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment's protection of free speech -- we have opposed repeated efforts to amend the Bill of Rights to prohibit the burning of the flag.
Congress is again proposing to pass a constitutional amendment which will prohibit the desecration of the American flag. The House of Representatives has already approved that amendment by the two-thirds majority vote needed to send it to the states for ratification. The JCPA now reaffirms our opposition to this attempt to curtail the freedom of speech, and calls on the United States Senate and the American people to defeat this misguided and dangerous initiative and to support the Bill of Rights for which the flag stands.
(June 23, 1997) --The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) is deeply dismayed by recent actions of Chairman Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders that fundamentally violate both the requirements and spirit of their agreements with Israel. We deplore the decision not to cooperate fully with Israel to prevent terrorist activity in areas under PA jurisdiction and the edict issued by PA leaders imposing the death penalty against Palestinians -- including Arab citizens of Israel -- who sell land to Jews. Tragically, a number of Palestinians already have been murdered. Palestinian concerns with respect to Israeli policy are appropriately addressed through face-to-face discussions, not by engaging in, supporting or acquiescing in violence.
Notwithstanding these serious difficulties in the peace process, Israel and the Palestinians are seeking ways of returning to active and productive negotiations. We support these efforts because we believe, as they do, that the Oslo Accords and the Hebron Protocol continue to provide the best available basis for advancing the peace process. The JCPA strongly encourages the Administration to continue its active facilitation of the negotiations and welcomes good-faith efforts by others, including Egypt and Jordan, to bring the parties together. As members of Congress consider renewal of the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act -- which has been an essential instrument in enabling the U.S. to play its central role in facilitating the peace process -- we urge them to use this legislation to press for greater PA compliance with its obligations under the Oslo Accords. In addition, we encourage all parties to take steps to renew confidence in their commitment to advancing the peace process.