The Social Justice Vision at Stephen S. Wise Temple

Our congregation will see Social Justice as a calling that derives from our sense of God and the imperative of Jewish Tradition. The Stephen S. Wise Temple community will use our influence, power and compassion to be a force for positive, meaningful and effective change in the quality of life on behalf of all the citizens of Los Angeles and the world.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stephen S. Wise Temple Education Advocacy Group Joins Rabbi Stern for Meeting with Mayor Villaraigosa

Laurie Bahar, Allison Goodman, Diane Kabat, Barbara Margolis, Bill Kleiman, Zita Fortman, and Judy Niver joined the mayor and representatives from eight congregations of all faiths for a frank conversation about education with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. All participants were members of the LA Voice/PICO organizing community. At the meeting, Rabbi Stern spoke about the Talmudic principle that the world is sustained by the breath of children as the inspiration for our advocacy for public education. Laurie Bahar told the mayor about the difficult decision not to enroll her children in public Middle and High School and the reasons for that decision. Other congregational leaders spoke of their own difficulties with LAUSD. The mayor responded to their words and told of his own commitment to improving our public schools. He spoke movingly about his own mother and the priority that she placed on education and the result it had on his highly successful family. He noted the importance of people from the West Side of Los Angeles (our synagogue and members of IKAR) reaching out to join forces with those from the east and south sides of the city to tip the scales of reform in the right direction. We are proud to be participants in this important effort and recognize that as members of LA Voice we are making a powerful statement about our partnership with our entire city for the betterment of Los Angeles.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Reed Brief Summarized

Here's a "lighter" version of the Brief if your legalese is impaired (as mine is. . .). 

Reed Brief FAQs

Monday, March 5, 2012

What is Advocacy for Educational Reform?

The question above anticipates the Legal brief that you may access here (or below) because there might be some who feel that attaching support to a legal suit against UTLA is not advocacy. I'd like to suggest that among the ways that we can advocate for meaningful change is to be agitational.  In the parlance of community organizing, that means making waves, provoking a response, and exercising legal means as well as public pressure to drive change.  This lawsuit, managed on a pro-bono basis by our Temple member Jeremy Rosen, seeks to do just that.  It challenges seniority rules that force schools in minority communities that are already under-served to lay off their effective teachers because they might have lower seniority than other teachers in the entire LAUSD system.

Though it only affects about 50 schools we (who are listed as amici curiae) believe that though layoffs place a harsh burden on teachers (and we deeply regret that burden) concern for the well-being of teachers cannot be the only factor driving decision about who is laid off.  Because the teachers with the least seniority are often placed in the most troubled schools, they are often the first to go.  This creates a high teacher attrition rate in schools where consistency is sorely needed. Why should these children bear the burden of failed educational policies?

Ultimately, major changes must occur in LAUSD as well as the educational system in California.  There are many organizations working for those changes as well as advocates seeking to pressure the legislature, the school districts and the teachers' unions to make those changes.  Some of the ideas are good, some are less so.  However, without pressure nothing will change.

You will notice that the list of amici curiae draws from across the political spectrum.  Thus we feel that our support is in keeping with our commitment to non-partisanship and yet, makes as strong statement about the need for serious reform.  

In addition, in some of his conversations with Educational Advocates, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy indicated that sometimes, suits are the best avenue to affect change in a moribund system overburdened with arcane and obsolete legislative restrictions.

The majority of members of our Stephen S. Wise Temple Educational Advocacy group signed on to this law suit to add our names to those who are pressuring the system to change.  We hope that joined by the voices and actions of many in our state, the officials and leaders whose decisions influence the quality of public education will ultimately make the necessary to improve our schools.

2012-03-01 ACB Reed v. United Teachers [HL]