(JTA) — Five rabbis from multiple Jewish denominations are among more than a dozen Missouri faith leaders challenging the state’s ban on abortion.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in St. Louis Circuit Court, the faith leaders charge that lawmakers acted according to their personal religious beliefs and violated the separation of church and state protected in Missouri’s constitution.
“I was really proud to have the opportunity to join in this lawsuit because I’ve seen the ways in which religious views are being enshrined into laws in Missouri and across the country,” Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis and a prominent activist in the St. Louis area, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
“That’s fundamentally dangerous, I think, for our democracy, for all citizens, but especially for our Jewish community,” she added.
Jewish activists have been particularly active in contesting abortion restrictions imposed since the Supreme Court’s rollback of Roe v. Wade last year.
In Florida, a synagogue sued the state over its abortion law in June, arguing that the 15-week ban on abortion “prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and this violates their privacy rights and religious freedom.” In September, three Jewish women were part of a lawsuit filed in Indiana claiming that the state’s ban on abortion violates the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
And in October, three Jewish women filed a lawsuit to block Kentucky’s abortion restrictions on religious freedom grounds, arguing that the law violates their ability to practice Jewish understandings of when life begins and impedes the possibility of in-vitro fertilization, which is also permissible by Jewish law.
In Missouri, the faith leaders partnered with the National Women’s Law Center and Americans United for Separation of Church and State in drafting their lawsuit. They are seeking to overturn a blanket ban on abortions except in the case of a medical emergency. The law, which was written in 2019 but went into effect after the Supreme Court ruling because of a “trigger” provision, makes performing abortions a felony punishable by five to 15 years in prison and says providers can lose their medical licenses.
“What the lawsuit says is that when you legislate your religious beliefs into law, you impose your beliefs on everyone else and force all of us to live by your own narrow beliefs,” said Michelle Banker, the director of reproductive rights and health at the National Women’s Law Center and the lead attorney in the case. “And that hurts us. That denies our basic human rights.”
The lawsuit cites multiple specific instances of religious language used by the bill’s sponsors and supporters. The bill’s lead sponsor, for example, is quoted in the lawsuit as having said, “As a Catholic I do believe life begins at conception and that is built into our legislative findings.”
Jewish tradition does not include the same belief, which is one reason that Jewish activists have been heavily involved in resisting abortion restrictions. Picker Neiss, who trained in an Orthodox setting, is joined by three Reform rabbis and one nondenominational rabbi who work in Missouri synagogues: James Bennett, Susan Talve, Andrea Goldstein and Douglas Alpert. Together, they make up 40% of the religious leaders to sign onto the lawsuit.
After filing their suit Thursday morning in St. Louis, the Missouri plaintiffs held a press conference and then marched to the Civil Courts building.
“It was really empowering to stand alongside so many people of such a diverse range of faith traditions, who all wanted to come together to say that religion doesn’t have any one answer to questions about abortion,” Picker Neiss said. “There is no one religious view in America. And so I just felt so heartened and inspired to stand arm in arm with religious leaders from across the spectrum.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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