This week’s Marc’s Remarks is longer than usual because there is a lot to share.
As my colleagues know, I love ice cream. In fact, earlier this week we celebrated National Ice Cream Day in our office. I was unsure if I would write about this issue, but feel compelled -- Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream proclaimed that within 18 months they will no longer sell ice cream in the West Bank (which they called "Occupied Palestinian Territory").
I have received multiple emails and links to articles from community members on all sides of this issue -- Is it anti-Semitic? Should Jews now boycott Ben and Jerry's? Shouldn't we applaud Ben and Jerry's for taking a principled stand? The reactions and responses have been fast and furious.
I am not here to debate the issue -- you can decide if you will eat their ice cream. I just want to share one point of view that is most central in my thinking, which Alan Edelstein, a lawyer in Jerusalem and Sacramento, wrote about yesterday in the Times of Israel:
Ben & Jerry’s action is interestingly selective. Among the countries it does business in are: Serbia which, to be polite, leans authoritarian. Malaysia, which does not allow Israelis into the country. Jew-hatred is so pervasive that Jewish visitors are warned to hide their religion. Its immediate past prime minister said that Jews “rule the world by proxy” and questioned the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. He said he was “glad to be labeled anti-Semitic” and he called Jews “hook-nosed.” And, the United Arab Emirates, which comes in just behind Russia, Cuba, the Republic of Congo, and Venezuela on the World Population Review’s Democracy Index. (In its defense, it does come in just ahead of Sudan.)
Ben & Jerry’s will happily continue to sell products in these bastions of tolerance, but not in the West Bank (to punish Israel and/or Jews?). I find it troubling knowing there is zero conversation about selling their ice cream in those other places.
You can decide on your own about Ben and Jerry's. But I think we can all agree, even though it would be "sweet," ice cream will not solve this conflict.
The Jewish Federation Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) works all year reviewing potential legislation in Salem, especially those areas of great importance to the Jewish community. As we provide every year, here is an end-of-session report on the 2021 Oregon Legislature.
Oregon’s 81st Legislative session adjourned on June 26th, finishing what will be characterized as one of the most unique and challenging sessions in Oregon’s history. The State Capitol, closed to the general public because of the coronavirus pandemic, was limited to just legislators and staff. All committee hearings were conducted virtually, House and Senate floor sessions were limited to smaller groups of people at one time, and lobbying occurred only by text, email and phone calls. Legislators had more money ($2.6 billion more than anticipated) to spend in over a decade, with the federal government providing significant Covid-19 relief dollars and Oregon’s economy growing at a quicker pace than pre-pandemic.
The JCRC continued to lobby and advocate on the following issues that are central to our Jewish values and community.
Protecting Services for Seniors and People with Disabilities
The JCRC supports the safeguarding of Medicaid funding for Oregon’s most vulnerable populations, and we are thankful that the budget was completely funded for the 2021-2023 budget cycle. The budget provided for an additional 300,000 people to receive health care coverage.
Additionally, the state’s economic outlook has improved. In May, state economists told lawmakers to expect an extra $1.18 billion in the current budget cycle, which ended June 30, and an extra $1.25 billion in the state’s next two-year budget cycle.
Lawmakers also anticipate that the growth in revenue will trigger the tax “kicker” next spring.
Preventing Gun Violence
The JCRC is a coalition member of the State of Safety Action group, which includes unions, health care providers, tribes, religious groups, businesses, and non-profits. We are committed to making Oregon safer by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous individuals. Last year, gun sales increased 43% in Oregon, and 40% of those purchase were by first-time buyers, according to retailers.
The JCRC supported and offered testimony in support of Senate Bill 544, which passed and was signed by the governor. The bill requires gun owners to secure their weapons when not in use, either by placing them in a locked container or by using a trigger lock. The measure also requires people whose guns are stolen to promptly report the theft to law enforcement.
SB 544 also includes language that allows schools, colleges, the State Capitol, and the Portland airport to ban weapons, including for those individuals with a concealed handgun license.
Unfortunately, HB 2543, another bill addressing gun violence and supported by the JCRC did not pass. That measure, commonly referred to as the “Charleston Loophole,” prohibits the transfer of a firearm by a gun dealer or private party if Department of State Police is unable to determine whether recipient is qualified to receive a firearm. Law enforcement often claim it takes longer than the statutory timeline to determine if a person is legally allowed to possess a firearm.
In 2017, the JCRC was involved in creating new statewide ethnic studies standards for public K-12 schools. Currently, social science standards include basic civics, economics, geography, and history of the United States. But these standards lack a more robust historical narrative that centers on the histories, contributions, and perspectives of “historically marginalized communities” and individuals. In addition to the traditional groups (Native American, African-American, Asian, Pacific Island, Latino, women, people with disabilities, etc.), the JCRC is seeking to include the history and perspectives of the Jewish community.
HB 2166, passed and signed by Governor Brown, focuses on creating culturally-specific education settings for children, increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of Oregon's teachers, and ensuring that all students can be successful in preschool and early-learning programs. This requires the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) work more closely with communities that historically were subjected to bias, racism, and discrimination. The bill also creates a pathway for nontraditional licensure, understanding that teachers that come from and look like the communities they serve often provide better engagement and outcome for students.
Protecting Workers Against Wage Theft
The JCRC believes that every worker has the right to live and labor with dignity, safety, and hope. The JCRC is a member of the Oregon Coalition Against Wage Theft, which introduced several pieces of legislation this session. Unfortunately, similar to last session, they did not pass into law.
HB 2358 would have required employers to pay agricultural workers overtime wages if hours worked exceed 40 in a work week.
Additionally, HB 2205, the “Just Enforcement Act,” failed to move forward this session. The bill would empower workers by giving them the ability to enforce their workplace rights in court and avoid forced-arbitration agreements.
Other Legislative Issues with JCRC Involvement
Doxing. HB 3047 establishes a civil cause of action for improper disclosure of personal information and was signed into law. Sometimes referred to as “doxing,” this occurs when a person discloses the personal information of another for the purpose of harassing, stalking or harming the individual.
Immigration. HB 3265 prohibits law enforcement from denying public services, benefits, and privileges to certain individuals based on their federal immigration status. The bill requires law enforcement to explain to the individual that they can refuse to disclose nationality, citizenship, or immigration status. It also prohibits the use of public funds to assist federal immigration enforcement and requires that requests for assistance be reported to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission for review. Notably, this legislation provides a private civil action against a law enforcement agency or public body that violates its prohibitions. The bill passed and was signed into law.
Police Reform. Rep. Janelle Bynum (D - Happy Valley), Oregon's only black woman lawmaker and the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Equitable Policing, is largely credited with authoring and shepherding dozens of bills through the process. These include requiring officers to report misconduct by their colleagues, demanding more public reporting on police discipline and setting up a new civilian board to oversee police discipline. Also, in light of the protests last year in downtown Portland, several bills would limit law enforcement’s use of tear gas and rubber bullets for crowd control and require police agencies to participate in the FBI's national use-of-force data collection. All of these reforms were signed into law by Governor Brown.
Climate Change. Senate Joint Memorial 5 urges Congress to pursue viable solutions to the threat posed by climate change and pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. This legislation would impose a fee on the carbon content of fuels, including crude oil, natural gas, coal, or any other product derived from those fuels that would result in the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The bill failed to move out of the House Rules Committee.
I am proud of the work of the JCRC and its constituent agency members for their advocacy on behalf of issues of importance to the Jewish community and beyond.
Here is a great summer activity. The Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, and the Mittleman Jewish Community Center invite you to join guest curator Kenneth Helphand for a tour of Lawrence Halprin, Fountains and Upon They Gates, The Elaine K. and Normal Winik Mezuzah Collection followed by a reception on OJMCHE’s stunning rooftop patio.
There are two tours – August 3 at 11:00 a.m. for community members 45+ and August 10 at 5:30 p.m. for community members ages 45 and under. Tickets are $10 each and get them here.
Finally, the Olympics are here with the opening ceremony this morning. I love the Olympics, yet this year feels very different, especially with almost no spectators. Here is a great article identifying all the Jewish athletes in a wide variety of sports. Let's hope for a safe, healthy, and competitive Games.