Social Action Committee Page

Opinion pieces on this page do not necessarily express the views of the
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County as a whole or of
the entire Social Action Committee.



Next Social Action Committee Meeting TBA

Read Social Action Committee Minutes


The Board of Trustees of our Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
has joined as a supporting congregation to the New Jersey Coalition on Reason.
For information, see below or check out their calendar here.


Below is a list of organizations and representatives that are part of the present composition of New Jersey Coalition of Reason.

We have a contract for a billboard on the NJ Turnpike that will be put up in the 20’s of October. The group will launch a website soon to coordinate with that.

Other groups may still in the process of signing on.



The following are members of this Google group (in addition to the above):





Ethical Action Reports from the AEU

Minutes of Past meetings (Reverse Order)



Resources about Being Green

Barry Zack's website Our Neighborhood Earth has excellent links for more
information about Global Warming and How to Stop it

Info on the Essex County Greens

Environmental Working Group

The Green Guide

More Green sites

Interested in buying Fair Trade Coffee and other Products?
First, read what Fair Trade is here. Then click here for
information about the Fair Trade Federation.
Click here for information about the free trade shop in New Jersey.



Minutes of Past meetings (Reverse Order)

Minutes of the Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County

August 22, 2011 7:30 PM

Attending: Zia Durrani, Sue Willis



With only two people attending, we had some wide ranging discussions and brief reports. Zia reported on the work she has been doing with members of her family and Gus Lindquist at the Valley Settlement House in Orang. Sue reported on a thank you note from IRATE and First Friends stating that the most recent drive for stationery supplies for the Elizabeth detention center detainees had included, all-told, 17,000 sheets of paper, 3,000 greeting cards, and 5, 440 envelopes plus stamps! Sue also reported that, as requested at the last meeting, she sent a note Paul Surovell thanking him for his continuing work for peace and offering the Committee's support should he want to use the Society Building for Peace Action Events.

We then planned for the September Kenya Clothing Collection which will gather clothes to be shipped to Nairobi by Mira Stillman's friend Helen Mukwanjeru, who ships them to her son who distributes them to members of her large family and to two organizations through her daughter. The organizations are Christian Worship Center and Hope of Life Ministries, both situated in Mombasa Kenya.
We will announce the clothing drive at the first platform on September 11, then collect on September 18 and September 25. We are looking for all types of clothes, men's, women's, and children's, mostly for a tropical climate, but also light jackets or sweaters. Most people wear long pants. Sue will post on the web site and email the message out– we also hope to have Ms. Mukwanjeru possible come in person at some point.

We also discussed whether or not we might consider some support one of the excellent organizations that help families by centering on the needs of women, including Women for Women, which is an international organization; Women for Afghan Women (we had speaker Naheed Bahram on June 5, 2011– see website ); or an organization in the South Bronx run by an old classmate of Sue's called Whedco (Women's Housing and Economic Development). See the website at .
Zia will do further research and report, but please take a look at those websites before we meet again.

We tabled until we have a larger group further discussion on Lisa Novemsky's idea for a Freegan event and next steps with the Essex Immigration Detention and/or IRATE First Friends.







Minutes Social Action Committee Meeting
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
June 20, 2011


Attending: Zia Durrani, Betty Levin, Lisa Novemsky, Mira Stillman, Sue Willis


The committee had its first summer meeting in the kitchen of a very busy Ethical Society building at 7:00 PM , beginning with chair Sue Willis reading Society President Anja Moen's report on the disposition of our resolutions for the AEU assembly. Anja wrote: "The immigration [resolution] has some factual faults that some other societies pointed out - we need to rewrite it to go for the whole country, and everybody was happy we brought up such an important issue. We can send it in later for social action resolutions done by the Board. The [resolution about the Pentagon budget] was about having an educational campaign, again - there were consensus on the principle but AEU is just recovering from disastrous financial times and have absolutely not a dime for this. We would not have gotten consensus on any of these, so it was better to withdraw. That was my decision. When I come home at the end of July and beginning of August, I will rewrite these, as I think we should send them off.

"We could only work on what we had sent before deadline, so Betty's did not work, but we had the key speaker Dot M. from Peace Institute and the organization is active in this area....[The three resolutions that did pass with consensus were] Statehood for Washington DC ; against Fracking - the new way to get gas out; and against having corporations be individuals who can sponser candidates in elections." We hope to work with Anja on reworking our resolutions for possible passage by the AEU Board or at next year's AEU Assembly.

Next we discussed State Senate Bill 2718, which New Jersey Citizens Action opposes as being the beginning of chipping away at the right of collective bargaining for public employees. See more at . Lisa's son works for the Communications Workers of America, who are involved in this, and she will try to get more information for him, with an aim towards educating ourselves and possibly leading a letter-writing/carding on the issue.

Zia and Betty reported on a new committee of the Board to work on commissioning a sculpture for the front of the building commemorating the Ethical Society as a peace site. The idea is to send out an invitation to art schools and to offer a prize for a design.
We then discussed projects for the coming year. First, we decided to go ahead with Mira's idea to collect clothing to be sent to Kenya by a Kenyan woman she is associated with. Our idea is to do this immediately on three Sundays in September as a quick way to get active in the coming year. Mira will get details on what kinds of clothing are needed and exactly who will get them.

We also talked about going ahead with a "Freegan" outdoor swap. One idea was bicycles, another was electronics, and Lisa will talk with Ethical Board member Fred Sebastian who works in this field. For Freegan Information, go online to
We also hope to continue to support First Friends/IRATE. Sue is to find out how many people are needed for a training session for preparation to visit immigrants in the detention centers.

Finally, after a discussion comparing the idea of "peace" to the idea of "anti-war," and whether the Society ought to take an anti-war position as well as being a place of peace, we decided to have the chair write a note to Society member Paul Surovell praising his work with South Mountain Peace Action and encouraging him to continue using our facility for his projects.

The next meeting has been set tentatively for Monday, August 22, at 7:30 PM.





Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
Sunday, May 22, 2011 After platform

Attending: Diane Beeney, Barbara Cotler, Marty Cotler, Zia Durrani, Gus Lindquist, Lisa Novemsky, and Meredith Sue Willis, chair. Visitor: Shirley Steiner.

MSW reported that we presented our 2010-2011 annual report at the Annual Meeting on May 15, 2011, and that our two resolutions for the AEU assembly had been submitted.

The main business today was Betty Levin's proposed 3rd resolution, which had been distributed beforehand. MSW recommended presenting a revised version of Betty's resolution, attached below, as an addendum to the 2006 resolution in which the AEU supported the formation of a Department of Peace at the federal level (H.R. 808).

The committee especially empowered her to cut the language referring to domestic tranquillity, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. Accord to limited research, Washington's "Sentiments on a Peace Establishment" of 1783 was about organizing militias and arsenals etc. There was, however, early talk in the new republic of something like a Department of Peace, in particulary from Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who wrote an essay about an office with equal footing to the Department of War. This interesting document (which included a demand for free schools and an American edition of the Bible to be provided at government expense to every family) was published in Benjamin Banneker's 1793 almanac.

The Committee will work on revising this third resolution through an email discussion. It will then be forwarded to Society president Anja Moen and Society interim leader Martha Gallahue for possible presentation from the floor at the AEU Assembly.
The committee then discussed a few ideas for possible projects for the coming months, including discussions and study leading to another Peace resolution for the AEU next year, focusing on domestic peace; a possible "Freegan" outdoor swap in early September (Lisa will consult with Nancy Bohn on feasibility); working on some project with veterans; continuing to work in some way on immigration issues and immigrant detention centers.

We'll consider these ideas and more at our next meeting, set for Monday, June 20, 2011 at 7:00 PM at the Society Building






Minutes of the Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
April 10,, 2011 12:30 PM

Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; Barbara Cotler, Marty Cotler, Zia Durrani, Betty Levin;
Gus Lindquist; Lisa Novemsky

The Social Action Committee had a short meeting today to choose and revise resolutions to send to the AEU for consideration at the annual conference. We also discussed several other matters, including the fact that our nominee for the Elliott-Black award, Paul Surovell, was not chosen. The choice was Frances Fox Piven, Ph.D.

Betty thanked Zia and Sue for coming over to help prepare folders for her upcoming appearance at the Vose Avenue Senior Housing for the monthly Open Luncheon, where she will be the speaker about the new Peace Department.

Betty also requested that the March 20 minutes be updated to reflect the language of the Peace Alliance about its new initiatives. She will send the wording to Sue by mail. Betty also reported on the most recent phone-in meeting of the Peace Alliance and talked about the proposed new publicity campaign: "I Am the Face of Peace."

We also discussed two proposals for AEU resolutions. We agreed to go ahead with the one on immigration issues (thre has apparently been no AEU resolution on this subject since 1960) and, if we may offer two, to include one updating the 2006 resolution on the Department of Peace.

After some discussion, Sue was asked to revise the Immigration resolution draft, which is below. Committee members with final suggestions should get back to her by email before Friday, April 15.

The suggested date for the next Social Action Committee meeting is Sunday, May 22, 2011 after platform. Please get back to Sue to say if that works for you.

                                                                                                    – Meredith Sue Willis

Here is the suggested resolution:
Because of our Ethical Culture values, we are deeply concerned about inhumane conditions in immigration mass detention centers for people who want to live and work in the United States. These immigration detention centers appear to us to violate the human rights of the detainees.
Many of the centers for mass immigration detention bar family, clergy, and other humanitarian group visits. Detainees are treated as if they were worse than people accused of crimes, as they are not considered innocent until proven guilty but rather guilty until proven innocent.
There are also cases of US citizens being mistakenly detained and deported. Immigration detention disrupts families and removes working people from the community, and detainees are often from families in which at least one member is a legal permanent resident. There may also be children who are US citizens. We are deeply troubled about what happens to these children if one or both parents are detained.
We feel that it is particularly morally repugnant for incarceration companies to make a profit from the mass detention of immigrants when the centers are out-sourced. Sometimes, in both public and privately managed facilities, immigration detainees are mixed in with the general population of jails and prisons.
The time has come for a call to action: the mass detention of immigrants may be immoral in itself, but as long as we have immigration detention centers, Ethical Culture demands that conditions be made as humane as possible.
At a minimum, we insist that all mass immigration detention centers permit:

– visiting hours that include week-ends and evenings;
– family members being allowed to touch each other;
– a service set up for visitors for people with no family nearby;
– unrestricted phone calls;
– decent medical care and mental health care;
– food that is healthy and allows for special diets, religious or secular;
– unrestricted access to religious services;
– time in the fresh air for recreation and exercise.



Minutes of the Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
March 20, 2011 12:30 PM


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; Martha Gallahue; Betty Levin; Gus Lindquist; Lisa Novemsky; Mira Stillman
This was a shortened meeting because of a workshop later in the day for Board Members with Westchester Society leader Bart Worden. We began with several reports. Chair Sue Willis reported on our nomination of Paul Surovell for the Elliott-Black Award (John Lovejoy Elliott & Algernon Black) and on our carding of February 27, 2011 that asked the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders not to support a new Immigration Detention Center in Newark, and if it is built, to assure human conditions for the detainees. MSW passed out a few extra cards to be signed and sent to the Chosen Freeholders.
Next came a report from Betty Levin on her work for peace. She spoke about the Peace Alliance's decision to begin presenting itself with some new language, especially "Moving from 'Search and Destroy' to 'Seek and Talk.'" She is also scheduled to present her Imagine Peace workshop at the senior housing apartments on Vose Avenue in South Orange, and asked for help assembling materials into folders. Zia volunteered to help, and MSW will too, depending on her availability. Betty also reported on her Birthday Party/Peace Celebration earlier this month, which was a rousing social success as well as a fund-raiser for the Society. To learn more about the Peace Alliance, see their web page at
We scheduled our next Social Action meeting for only three weeks away, April 10, 2011, in order to discuss an opportunity presented to us by Society President Anja Moen. The AEU is welcoming submissions of resolutions from the organization, to be presented at this year's assembly, with a deadline of April 28. We may submit a one-page Ethical Action Resolution to be clear, concise language and including a "Call to Action." Past resolutions may be viewed at the AEU homepage at Our discussion will cover any issues that have not had recent resolutions, although MSW suggested we might want to have something related to immigrations since we have an ongoing interest in that. Martha committed to making some notes that might be used for this.
Gus invited us all to the April 9 film that may give us further ideas for the meeting, and he also announced that Maplewood has decided to give funding once again to the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race. He suggested individuals writing thank yous to the Mayor of Maplewood, and the group voted to send in addition to send a letter from the Committee, which Sue agreed to write and send in the committee's name.
Everyone is requested to look at the AEU resolutions from the past and think about this and be ready to discuss at the April 10th meeting.
We set our next meeting for Sunday, April 10, 2011 after platform and then adjourned.







Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
January 23, 2011


Attending: M. Sue Willis, Chair; Barbara Cotler; Marty Cotler; Martha Gallahue; Gus Lindquist; Lisa Novemsky;



We began with a few reports and discussions, including the Ethical Culture Society having a table at the Community Coalition's Martin Luther King event on January 17, 2011. A lot of people took information and a couple signed up for the contact list.
Next, Sue passed around the thank you letter from Sister Regina of IRATE/First Friends for the stationery we sent for inmates at the Elizabeth immigration detention center. We have a speaker coming from them on February 13, and we discussed the possibility of a carding, but decided to wait and hear the message first.

We also discussed subjects and possible language for a carding in the next feel weeks, and Martha offered to come up with some environmentally oriented ones. Lisa and Gus discussed a proposed housing project on the edge of Memorial Park in Maplewood, which they and most people at a recent Public Speaks in Maplewood oppose. Lisa is to sketch out a possible carding sentence encouraging the Township Committee to reconsider or at least do more research on the project.

Anja had reported by email from Mexico (where Zia is also!) that the Social Action Committee has a budget of $50. Sue asked to use $15 of it for post cards for cardings, and the group agreed, with a caution from Marty to be frugal.

Next we discussed the possibility of nominating someone for the AEU's Elliott-Black Social Action Award, named for John Lovejoy Elliott & Algernon Black, to be presented in June. The deadline March 8, 2011. Martha suggested young Matthew LeClair, and Marty suggested local peace activist and Society member Paul Surovell. The group thought we ought to consider nominating Paul first, and Barbara will call him to see if he's willing to be nominated, and if he is, Sue will collect basic information on him for the biographical note.

Lisa conveyed a report on absent member Betty Levin's peace activities, which recently included reading peace-related stories to second graders in a Millburn school. She also has planned a presentation of her free Imagine Peace workshop at the Valley Settlement House in Orange.
Gus reported on a long term plan to create an association between the Essex Society and that same Valley Settlement House through a gardening club/planting project to take place at our society for our members, and possibly be extended to the Settlement House. A local horticulturalist friend of his will possibly participate in some way. This project might be a long term way to bring diverse neighbors interested in gardening into the Society.

We set our next meeting for Sunday, March 20, 2011 after platform (which is Martha's Sunday), and then adjourned.






Social Action Committee Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
December 5, 2010 12:30 PM



Attending: Chair Sue Willis; Barbara Cotler and Marty, Zia Durrani, Betty Levin, Gus Lindquist; Boe Meyerson, Anja Moen, Lisa Novemsky; Mira Stillman & Jerry; Tracey Woods (and friend!).




1. UN Carding Sue reported that we did our carding to the New Jersey Senators (Lautenberg & Menendez) in support of the UN that was inspired by Martha Gallahue’s speech. If you haven’t sent one, please consider doing it. Here is the language we used:
We have just marked on Oct. 22, 2010 the 65th anniversary of the United Nations. We ask you to work in the United States Senate to support the UN and its commitment to promoting peace, development and human rights. The UN needs to do more, but its global mission to protect those caught up in armed conflict, to fight climate change and avert nuclear catastrophe, to increase opportunities for women and girls, and to combat injustice should be enhanced and expanded.
2. First Friends/IRATE She also announced last call for starionery for the Elizabeth detention center inmates. Several people contributed cash to cover $.98 stamps to include with donated stationery so the detainees can send cards overseas to families. First Friends/IRATE has a “packing party” and want volunteers on Sunday December 12, 2010– 1:00 PM, St. Joseph’s, 118 Division St. Elizabeth) For information about immigration and the detainees, see the website at, especially the video at . Also see . We also have tentative dates for a platform from First Friends/IRATE for the beginning of February, probably Feb 13, 20, or 27.
3. Peace Issues Betty Levin then reported on several peace issues being worked on by the Department of Peace subcommittee. First, she met with the new superintendent of t he Millburn school district, and he was very open to some of her ideas.
She also encouraged our committee to call in to the monthly First Tuesday Department of peace call in at 712-432-1601 (access code 47082). Zia and Boe volunteered to try and join the call-in. For information about the Peace Alliance and Peace Department, see
Also, Betty is offering a free Imagine Peace workshop for anyone who wants to invited over a few friends. She distributed materials to give us information to tell our neighbors, and Sue volunteered to send out an email blast with Betty’s offer.
4. AEU Topic for the year Mira asked about the plans for the AEU taking on some single topic. Her suggested topic was the size of the military budget of the U.S. (approximately 2/3 of the entire Federal budget.) “We hear cries of poverty for most needed social programs at this time,” wrote Mira, “but the military budget only increases. Why is it so sacred and all other human needs so inconsequential in terms of our expenditures? Do the American people really want it this way, do they really believe that it wouldn't be better to relieve poverty in our country in these difficult economic times, to attempt to keep people in their homes, and to engage in urgent humane solutions across the globe with a goodly portion of the military budget instead of investing in weapons and more wars? Or are we mostly ignorant about the way our national treasure is used since, in general, our politicians do not raise this as an issue? I would hope that the AEU would undertake a program to educate themselves on this issue and would then, to the extent possible, both try to educate the public and to encourage debate on the values and practicalities of our country's current course.” Anja has passed it on the council of AEU Presidents.
5. Anja and Gus are making an effort to have all of 3rd Saturday Arts events include information on and support of four local social action groups, with links on the 3rd Saturday Arts website,
The Food Bank
South Mountain Reservation
South Mountain Peace Action
The South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race.
6. Anja also announced plans for a spring food bank drive from the Society as a whole, with support of the Social Action Committee.
The next meeting was set for Sunday, January 23, after platform.
Reminders for work to do before the next meeting:
● Zia and Boe for the Peace Alliance Call-in
● Sue to send out email blast about Betty’s Imagine Peace workshop
● Stationery to First Friends for Detainees
● Plan for a carding when the First Friends/ IRATE speaker visits in February.
● Finalize First Friends speaker










Minutes 10-31-10
Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County




1. Chair Sue Willis reported on her conversations with people at First Friends/IRATE (see website at, who work to support detainees in the Elizabeth Detention Center. They are willing to speak at Ethical, and Sue is working with Elaine on a date.
They also need certain supplies immediately for the detainees:
              – Blank 2 pocket folders
              – First class “Forever” stamps
              – $0.98 stamps for international postage
              – $ to purchase phone service for the 326 detainees

If you want to help out in another way, they are having a “packing party” and want volunteers on Sunday December 12, 2010 at 1:00 PM, St. Joseph’s, 118 Division St. Elizabeth. If you’re interested, call them at 908-965-0455.

Boe Meyerson suggested collecting donations immediately, and $15 was collected, which Sue will use to buy stamps for the detainees.
2. The next report was from Anja about the AEU Presidents’ luncheon & AEU social action. The Presidents are considering at some point taking on an AEU-wide issue, which our committee thought worth considering, as long as it is optional for the local societies. We have the opportunity to give out input as to what such an issue should be.
3. Betty Levin had a number of items related to the Peace Alliance/Department of Peace (see web page at
               – First, she mentioned the monthly (first Tuesday) phone call to find out what is happening at the national level and encouraged us all to call in. The number is 712-432-1601. At the signal, dial access code 470321. The next dates are Tuesday November 2, at 9:00 PM and Tuesday, December 7 at 9:00 PM.
              – Next she told about good support for a Youth Promise Act (See the Peace Alliance web page at
              – Betty is also offering to do a 1 and ½ hour workshop on the Department of Peace idea for anyone who can bring together half a dozen people. To schedule an event, call her directly at 973-763-1033
              – She also expressed interest in the Pennies for Peace project, which Zia will look into.
4. Sue suggested that it is time for a carding, and the group agreed to do a carding next week, November 7, after platform, on general support for the UN. Anja will assist. This idea grew out of Martha Gallahue’s’s talk on October 24.
5. Anja announced that Martha and her partner Liz will be running an MLK event for kids here on Martin Luther King Monday. Sue and others advised that they need to coordinate with Coalition on Race.
6. Next meeting was set for Sunday December 5 after platform, and we adjourned.


– By the next meeting (or email sooner) give your suggestions for what the entire AEU might take on in the realm of Social Action.
– Zia is to get information on “Pennies for Peace”
– Sue & Anja do carding supporting UN on Sunday November 7.
– Sue to work on date for First Friends speaker
– Next meeting Sunday December 5 after platform.



Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
September 19, 2010 12:45 PM


The Social Action Committee had a short meeting September 19, 2010 after platform. Attending were Diane Beeney, Barbara Cotler, Zia Durrani, Betty Levin, Boe Meyerson, Anja Moen, and Sue Willis. Anja and Betty reported that Food and Book Collection are both continuing. Please bring children’s books and non-perishable food for the local pantry. Sue reported that we have sent another box of stationery to the Elizabeth Detention Center via IRATE and First Friends (website, who always send us a nice thank you when we do. Sue paid for the postage this time, but will be asking for donations for the next round.

It was suggested that we try to get First Friends and IRATE for a platform on immigration issues, specifically the situation at the Elizabeth detention center. Sue will try to get in touch with them about their availability.

Sue also suggested that immigration might be a good issue for carding. Diane made some suggestions about language, and we decided to work on this at our next meeting.

The rest of the meeting centered on tasks needed to support next week’s Rededication of the Peace Site. Please look below for the tasks you volunteered for. If you weren’t here, call Betty Levin to find out what else needs doing.

– Anja is coordinating with Marshall for set up.
– Anja will also make sure the kitchen has needed supplies
– Anja will make sure a reminder goes out.
– Sue will call Maplewood police on September 25 to remind them of extra cars on Sunday.
– Sue will come at 10:15 a.m. to Betty’s house to pick up Mr. Lynn Elling to take him to the Ethical Culture building.
– Boe and possibly Gus will come to Betty’s at 10:30 a.m. to help carry materials to the building.
– Zia will act as hostess, meeting and greeting.
– Diane is in charge of decorations.

The next meeting of the Social Action Committee is Sunday, October 31, 2010 after platform




Minutes Social Action Committee Minutes
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
June 22, 2010
7:00 PM Ethical Culture Society Building


Attending: Chair, Sue Willis; Diane Beeny; Zia Durrani; Betty Levin; Lisa Novemsky; Mira Stillman


The meeting began on a sad note when Betty and Lisa reported that the Society has lost a long time member, and important member of the Social Action Committee for many years: Doris Rados. We will miss Doris very much.

The business portion of the meeting opened with Mira Stillman reporting that we now have a man who is picking up food from our nonperishable food donation box to be distributed locally to families in need. For the summer, the local food pantry will be a St. Joseph’s church in Maplewood. This is especially important at a time when the children are not getting meals at school. The Society will continue to collect food over the summer. Sue is to send out an email to the Society, and to post this information on the web page.

Mira also updated us on the continuing collection of children’s books to be distributed to K - 2nd grade children in a special reading program. This project of collecting children’s books is also ongoing. There is a box in the small room off the main parlor.

Next we had a discussion about activities and issues we want to work on in the coming year. Mira Stillman suggested that we support at least one of the several environmental committees in Maplewood, and she will look into the possibilities for us. Mira also suggested the need to educated ourselves about the recent agreement signed between the US and Russia, and we made suggestions for a possible platform speaker.
Zia talked about some reading she has been doing, and after some discussion, recommended a book for a book discussion platform, William Dalrymple’s Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India. Mira and Sue will read the book and work with Zia on a panel discussion platform in the coming year.

Diane spoke of the upcoming International Peace Day on September 21, and we all agreed this would be a good tie-in to the rededication of the building as a Peace Site on September 26. This led directly to the plans, ideas and extensive materials Betty Levin had brought us about the Peace Alliance Project.

The issue arose of the relation of Betty’s work on Department of Peace Cabinet Level Bill issues to the committee and the Society as a whole. It was decided for maximum flexibility, that she would continue to work as an individual, except in cases where she applied specifically to the Social Action Committee for support.

First, she asked for help with at least temporary Peace Site sign, and Diane volunteered to help with painting such a sign or banner if it is made.

Second, Betty asked for help with planning and implementing the September 26 Peace Site rededication. Betty will be meeting with Peace Action head Marilyn Hoffman in July, and will, among other things, get a definite word of whether or not the Ethical Culture Society is the first Peace Site in the world. The speaker for the platform will be Martha Gallahue, and at the rededication, we will have others. She has a committee for planning of Terri Suess, Diane Beeny, and herself so far, with Madelyn Hoffman. The Social Action committee will help with “day of” preparations and more. Betty also hopes to create a strategy for lobbying members of congress about the Department of Peace Cabinet Level Bill, and Zia agreed to meet with her to discuss plans.

Betty and her subcommittees agreed to report to the Social Action Chair on all projects being supported by the Social Action Committee.

The Next Meeting was set for Sunday, September 19, 2010 immediately after platform.





Social Action Committee Minutes
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
April 11, 2010

Attending: Mira, Sue, Boe, Diane, Zia, Marty, Barbara, Lisa, & Terri

We began the meeting with several reports and announcements. We had our third carding of the year on March 21, supporting the Department of Peace Bill; we have had to suspend battery collection, temporarily we hope; we purchased an ad in the Peace Action Annual Journal. Mira reported that the book collection is ongoing, but that we could use more books. She has a friend who is a librarian, and will be donating more books.

Committee member Betty Levin, who was not able to attend today, will be presenting the platform on May 9th, Mother’s Day. She does not need the committee’s help on that, but she does need help afterwards at the Open House fund-raiser, 1:30 to 4 p.m.. Several people tentatively volunteered to help with setting up and tidying up, including, tentatively, Terri, Boe, and Diane Beeny.
Betty is also looking for volunteers to help with the Peace Bill Committee. Several people, including Zia, Terri, and Sue have already been doing various things, and the committee requested a list of tasks needing work. Betty should give this list to Sue, who will e-mail it to the committee for volunteers to do specific tasks.

There was a discussion about when the Social Action Committee should be called upon to co-sponsor events with outside groups versus when the Society as a whole co-sponsors. Generally, the Social Action Committee is called on when a topic is more political or controversial. Barbara pointed out that we should not be giving free use of rooms to organizations with budgets. The Parents United Film festival, for example, with films about the Academic Achievement Gap, will be passing the hat for donations to be shared with the Society.
Sue also requested and was granted permission to take some of these actions without a vote by the committee. She agreed to let the committee know by email, and, when time allows, to poll the committee in advance.

Mira reported that not only books but canned goods are needed for 120 local families whose children get free and reduced lunches. It was decided to begin a four week effort to collect groceries just for these families (in addition to the usual food bank box). Mira will prepare a special box which will be available for donations on April 25, May 2, May 9, and May 16.

The Committee then voted on our choice for the yearly Elliott-Black award. We decided to cast our vote for Thomas Warfield and Peace Art International.

We also decided to do one more carding this year, tentatively set for May 2, the day after the Family Day and Green Earth Festivities. As a tie in, we’ll do cards on green issues, probably something about defunding of Green initiatives in New Jersey. Diane Beeny is to email Sue with information.

Finally Terri reported on plans for Family Day and Green Earth Festivities! Saturday, May 1st from 12 to 4 p.m. at the Ethical Culture Society, 516 Prospect St. Several of us will try to come at 10:30 a.m. to help set up.

The next Social Action Committee meeting was set for June 6, 2010.

February 14, 2010


Letter from Committee Member Joan Mendelson
on the Coal Power Plant in Linden, New Jersey:

SC Energy is planning to construct a 750 megawatt coal plant in Linden,New Jersey. They will compress the waste and pipe it into the sea The coal plant will bury 500 million tons of waste of CO2. The coal industry calls it clean coal,but all coal is a pollutant and it leak harmful substances onto the atmosphere. The project is called PurGen and we need to contact our representatives regarding this this solution , rather than  using alternative methods of energy . For further information contact Environmental Research Information or Essex Greens or New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance
                                                                                                     Joan Mendelson

Attending ths meeting: Diane Beeny, Betty Levin, Joan Mendelson, Boe Meyerson, Lisa Novemsky, Mira Stillman, Sue Willis
Chair Sue Willis reported that on February 7 we had our Torture carding and sent out @ 30 cards to senators and the president. This is our second carding of the 2009-2010 season– we also did November 22 asking for the closing of the former School of the Americas.
Mira is organizing a collection of children’s books for younger children. These will go to the Parenting Center, to be sent on to appropriate schools by Karen Weiland and her staff. Books are being collected in the small room off the main parlor at the Society building. Mira wants everyone to commit to bringing in books– many are needed for famileis who are too poor to buy books for their children. Although the emphasis is on books for the very young, they are accepting books up through fifth grade-appropriate. Mira also reported that she is not sure if there is still a need for taking food to the Clinton School pantry. She’ll check with Karen Weiland and let us know.

New Business:

Today’s meeting focussed on what we can do to support the Department of Peace Bill H808 in Congress. First, we hope all Social Action Committee members will attend the workshop on the Peace Bill at Betty Levin’s home on Sunday, March 14, at 1:30 PM. If you haven’t signed up yet, please contact Betty at 973-763-1033.
As a follow up, we will do our next carding on Sunday, March 21. This carding will have a simple message to our Members of Congress:: “Thank you for co-sponsoring the Department of Peace Bill H 808, or Please co-sponsor the Department of Peace Bill H 808.” This bill, sponsored by Dennis Kucinich, would establish a cabinet level Department of Peace and Nonviolence. For more information, including the entire bill, go to . Four New Jersey members of congress are already co-sponsors this year: Holt, Payne, Andrews, and Rothman.
More: Sue said that South Orange had stopped taking battery recycling temporarily, but Lisa offered to recycle the ones presently in the box, so our battery recycling will continue.
We also discussed ideas for future self-education and cardings, and Diane suggested learning about this year’s Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference sponsored by Reaching Critical Will ( ), a project of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Boe suggested a related platform with Sylvain Ehrenfeld on the UN’s role in new Non-proliferation treaties, and Diane will follow up with Elaine for possibly scheduling him.
Mira then brought up the continuing need of low income families in our community for free or cheap child care, and she and Betty are planning to meet with Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca to see what the town can do about this. Mira is also thinking about the need of young families for better ways of having time together. She’ll give this more thought, as to what might make a platform.
Sue reminded the group that we are responsible for the Mother’s Day platform on May 9, 2010,, and Joan Mendelson, who is a member of the Green party, said she would draft a short piece for the web site and/or newsletter on the situation with the Linden power plant.
Sue also announced the upcoming on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 in the South Orange Middle School Library is the Schools Committee of the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race’s discussion of the Academic Achievement Gap: Mind the Gap! This panel discussion begins at 7:00 PM , and is open to the public.

The Next Meeting was set for Sunday, April 11, 2010, after platform, and the meeting then adjourned.





Social Action Committee Minutes
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
January 24, 2010

Attending: Betty Levin, Boe Meyerson, Terri Suess, Sue Willis

This was a short reorganization meeting (several members were going directly to the Riverdale-Yonkers Ethical Culture Society for Jim White’s installation there as leader). We set the next meeting, which will be after platform on Sunday, February 14, 2010.

We also planned a carding on the Culture of Torture for February 7. Terri will send fact sheet information to Sue, who will bring the cards, addresses, and stamps. Those participating will be Sue and Terri, but everyone else is invited to help out too.

Betty reported that she has been taking food to the Clinton School pantry. She also reported that Mira is organizing a collection of children’s books for younger children. These will go to the Parenting Center, from where they will be sent to appropriate schools by Karen Weiland or her staff. Books are being collected in the small room off the parlor.




Social Action Committee Minutes
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
December 6, 2009



Attending: Sue Willis, Chair,, Zia Durrani, Betty Levin; Boe Meyerson; Lisa Novemsky, Mira Stillman; Terri Seuss, Joan Mendelson; Louisa Lubiak, guest; Julius Carallo, guest.



● Chair Sue Willis reported that Barbara Cotler had announced at today’s platform that next Sunday, December 14, 2009 will be the last day to bring in toys and books for the Parent Center Holiday Collection. She also passed around an envelope for financial donations which Mira will be taking to the Parent Center.
● We have sent stationery again to the Elizabeth Detention Center for detainees to use in corresponding with families and others.
● The battery box has now been emptied twice.
● Sue has also set up the special non-perishables box next to the food pantry one to be used for Clinton School families. Mira will find out if these donations go to Clinton School or to the Parenting Center.
● Sue and Betty Levin organized a carding on November 22 asking for the closing of the former School of the Americas– we sent out @ 30 - 40 post cards.
● Betty reported on the upcoming platform with Ann Creter (December 20 platform on Creating a Culture of Peace) for which we promised support with an honorarium, which was collected from the committee in cash that Betty will give to the speaker.
Upcoming Projects:
● Terri Seuss reported on a Saturday December 19 celebration of peace at the Society Building, and asked for committee support. The rededication of our building as a Peace Site, however, will take place at a later time, after the December 20 platform on Creating a Culture of Peace.
● We have tentatively scheduled a carding for January 3 on “the Culture of Torture.” Terri will research a fact sheet and a short message to send to legislators concerning the use of torture and the continued existence of the prison at Guantanamo.

● We also created a committee, so far consisting of Betty Levin, Sue Willis, and possibly Lisa Novemsky tp plan a platform for Mothers’ Day 2010 that will celebrate activist mothers.

Finally, we had an open discussion about how to train children and young people to mediate and cooperate instead of fight and compete. Mira and Lisa are interested in exploring how to bring some of the ample information on these topics to the Society–whether through a platform speaker or a campaign to bring this to our school district. They are to speak together and come up with a recommendation that will be presented at our next Social Action Committee meeting.

The next meeting was set for Sunday, January 24, 2010 after platform.






Minutes Social Action Committee Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
Sunday, November 1, 2009

Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, Barbara Cotler, Zia Durrani, Betty Levin, Boe Meyerson, Lisa Novemsky, Mira Stillman, and Rosalie Sussman.

The meeting began with brief reports:


Sue reported that the Battery Box has been emptied once, and it is already full again.

She is also about to send out our next box of stationery to the Elizabeth Detention Center.

Sue reported that we will be doing a carding against the School of the Americas on November 22. She will bring the card box and stamps, and Betty agreed to be present and help.

Betty reported that there were several mishaps that kept her and Diane Beeny from going to one of the Wednesday Peace vigils, but it is going to happen soon!

Lisa reported that the Coalition on Reason ( billboard is up around Kearney on the NJ Turnpike, and we discussed our organization’s participation and response. We all agreed that a platform would be a good way of dealing with the various points of view, and Lisa has connections with students from Farleigh Dickinson, who we hope to invite to speak.


This led to further reports on platform ideas:

  • Zia reported that she has reached out to a speaker from Women for Afghani Women (WAW, which was recently honored by the Brooklyn Ethical Culture Society. She will update us when she knows more.
  • We are still committed to doing a platform on activist mother for Mothers Day 2010 (May 9, 2010). Betty will take the lead, and Sue and others will help.
  • Betty also reported on making arrangements for Ann Creider to speak on December 20, 2009 on “Working for a UN Resolution on Creating a Culture of Peace.” Betty is very excited about the idea of working through NGO’s at the UN with an emphasis n spirituality.


Finally, we spent some time on Mira Stillman’s research and report on ways to do something about very local poverty. Mira told about her illuminating conversation with Karen Weiland at the Parenting Center at the Board of Education Building on Academy Street about programs that are in place for poor children in our local schools and which need support. She said that Karen seemed grateful for the call. The only other organization that has offered assistance is St George's Church. Karen thought that if we are interested, we could concentrate on any one program or more lightly on several. The following are the programs she co-ordinates, along with our discussion about which ones to follow-up on:

l. They need funds to purchase Breakfast Bars at some of the schools for children who come to school not having eaten anything. The Committee agreed that we would rather not give money for the less-than-ideally-nutritional bars.

2. There is a small Food Pantry at nearby Clinton School for just a handful of families. They distribute canned foods, pasta, and boxes of food. The committee will start collecting for this immediately. Sue will provide a box.

3. Holiday Toy Drive. The Parenting Center supplies 110 families with toys at holiday time and a basket of food. This is a project that Barbara Cotler has been working on for several years (the project was begun by Don and Abby Cotler). Barbara will start asking for donations immediately. In fact, Rosalie Sussman brought a donation when she dropped in to the meeting today!

4. Thanksgiving turkey and food baskets are distributed to 120 families. The Parenting Center wanted cash donation for this, and we decided to skip this one for now.


5. Book Drive. The Parenting Center collects for children K - 5 with a special emphasis on K - 2 because it is so important for poor children to have books and to read or be read to in order not to fall behind early on. Barbara will combine our Toy Collection with the Book Drive.


6. The Parenting Center has a six-week program to involve poor parents who are disengaged from school. They need funds. Mira was especially interested in this one, and we are considering collecting funds for it. Mira will get more information.

7. The Parenting Center has enough therapists, except in very unusual circumstances of crisis (like 9/11).

8. Mira also suggested working for a babysitting program for families in need in the community, and she will do some research on how we might proceed on this

The next meeting was set for Sunday, December 6, 2009, immediately after platform.





Minutes of the Social Action Committee Meeting
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
September 27, 2009

Attending: Diane Beeny, Zia Durrani, Betty Levin, Ed Lewinson, Boe Meyerson, Lisa Novemsky, Mira Stillman, Terri Suess, Meredith Sue Willis
Chair Sue Willis called the meeting to order and announced that our Battery Box has been set out in the hall near the Pantry box. Batteries will be collected and taken to South Orange or other safe disposal collection points. She also reported that the Committee bought an ad in the Coalition Celebration Ad journal with this text:
The Social Action Committee of the Essex Ethical Culture Society
Congratulates the South Orange Maplewood Community Coalition on Race for its commitment to the ethical treatment of everyone in our Community
Ethical Culture: acting so as to bring out the best
in others, and thus in ourselves.
516 Prospect Street, Maplewood, NJ 07040 Http://
Lisa Novemsky then reported on how the Essex Ethical Society has joined the Coalition on Reason, a group of humanist, atheist, and other organizations (now up to 32 members) who are concerned with publicizing and making a place for nonbelievers in New Jersey. The Board of Essex Ethical has voted to join this group, over objections. Betty Levin pointed out that Ethical Culture is not focused on the question of God, which is left up to the individual, but rather on ethics and positive behavior. Terri and Lisa made the point that it was good for us to be connected with this group, which includes a number of young people from college campuses. The projected, possibly inflammatory, advertising will not use our name directly.
Mira Stillman then reported on her continuing research into a way for our Society to plug into some of the poor families in our immediate community: the schools may have as many as 15% of the children on free and reduced lunch. She will try the Parenting Center at the Board of Education next.
Betty Levin then brought up the idea of starting a boycott of companies that do business with Iran (as people during the eighties put pressure on apartheid South Africa) in order to discourage that nation from developing nuclear weapons. Further discussion touched on the question of why not also boycott India, Pakistan, and Israel, who already have nuclear weapons. This discussion widened to the proliferation of nuclear arms and the status of nuclear disarmament today, after President Obama’s recent restart of talk about reducing nuclear arms at the U.N. We decided that in order to learn more, we would look for a future platform speaker.
Our committee considers searching out appropriate topics and speakers for Sunday morning platforms one important part of our responsibility. For this reason, we are suggesting the following platforms for this season. Committee members: please notice if you offered to seek out a speaker. These suggestions are ones that the Committee strongly supports. If possible, if your name is associated with the platform, get in touch with the speaker, then pass on information to Elaine Durbach for scheduling.
• Overview of status of nuclear disarmament today. Possibly get a speaker from Mayors for Peace?-- Terri Seuss
• Michelle Munsat to speak on Military Families against War Terri Seuss
• Two Essex Counties: Rich and Poor Terri Seuss
• Ann Crieder to do an update Department of Peace work Betty Levin has already contacted (Ms. Crieder needs some honorarium or travel money to come from deepest Southern New Jersey. The Committee agreed to pass the hat among ourselves up to $50 travel expenses for her)
• Catherine Archibald on the work of the AEU (Boe/ Betty/or Terri to ask)
• The Social Action Committee will create a Mothers Day 2010 program on activist mothers for Sunday May 9, 2010)
• Sue has also suggested to Elaine: Kal Wagenheim; Deborah Jacobson or other for ACLU update.
• Zia has already suggested a Drew professor on Afghanistan/Pakistan or perhaps the Sunni/Shia divide in Islam.
• Speaker (possibly from Seton Hall) on the Culture of Torture Terri Seuss
Finally, we are planning a couple of actions for the next several weeks:
1. Betty Levin and Diane Beeny will go together to one of the Military Families Against the War vigils on Wednesdays from 5 to 6, preferably with a sign representing the Social Action Committee of the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County.
2. Sometime in the next month and a half we will do a carding against the Culture of Torture. (Terri to send wording on name of bill we want to have rescinded and other info to Sue)
3. In November we will try to do another carding around closing the School of the Americas.
4. We will continue to collect stationery for Elizabeth Detention Center.
The next meeting was set for Sunday, November 1, after platform.




Minutes of the Social Action Committee Meeting
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
July 13, 2009

Attending: Betty Levin, Boe Meyerson, Lisa Novemsky, Mira Stillman, Terri Suess, Meredith Sue Willis,

    This was the summer planning meeting of the Social Action Committee, for discussing what we want to do with our resources for the coming year.  Chair Sue Willis reported briefly on the loss of a couple of key members, and that we have always depended on the enthusiasm of our committee members, following their lead as to which issues to take on.  This year we are particularly looking for concrete activities we can take on that will enhance the Ethical Culture Society as well as make change in the world.  Sue also reported that the committee’s letter to senators and congresspersons on health care was published in the local newspaper, The News-Record.
    Mira spoke first about her research on poverty local to Maplewood and South Orange. She is taking the lead on finding out what is needed by children in our school district who are living below the poverty line. She talked to staff in the School District Administration building, and is expecting a call from someone who knows about the children getting free and reduced lunch.  We hope to take on some concrete project to make a difference in these children’s lives.  Lisa mentioned teens with babies who sometimes need supplies; later Terri suggestions doing several short term projects during the year collecting or contributing what is needed– school supplies, coats to add to the high school’s coat collection project, etc. 
    Betty mentioned as continuing issues health care and, especially, the Cabinet level Department of peace bill languishing in congress.  The Social Action Committee has worked on this in the past, and is ready to support it again, perhaps beginning with a speaker.
    Boe suggested finding ways to support the Obama administration in its efforts to jump start industries and jobs that are truly sustainable and green.
    Lisa will do more research on how Whole foods food is compacting rather than distributing leftover food.
    Terri suggested a number of important national issues to consider, and visualized them as the spokes of a wheel, with torture, wars, immigration, and even climate change expanding out from the priorities of a nation– our nation– that centers on a military-industrial establishment that profits from selling arms to many sides in smaller countries. 
    After some discussion, the group decided to focus energy on the following:

        1. Local poverty, especially children.
                Mira is researching, and we will act on what she finds out is needed.
        2. Getting speakers for platforms we’d like to hear..  Lots of good ideas, but especially:
                – Ann Krieder (sp?)on Department of Peace (Betty to call)
                – Michelle Munsat on Military Families against War (Terri to call)
                – Someone on Afghanistan-Pakistan (who?)
                – Archibald from AEU (Betty calling)
                – “The Two Essex Counties–Rich and Poor” (Terri looking for a speaker)
        3. War and Peace issues. Action items will come after platforms, ideally a series that includes both a report on Department of Peace and Military Families.  One idea is to have a poster party and join the Military Families’ weekly vigil.
        4.  Create a celebration for Mothers’ Day  2010 and celebrate activist mothers.
        5.  Continue “post cardings” during the year.  Sue has the box and address stickers and usually takes the lead on this.
        6. Battery box– to collect old batteries and make it easy for folks.  Sue will make the box.
        8. Continue to collect stationery to send to First Friends for detainees in the Elizabeth Detention Center. Sue has been doing this.

The first meeting of the new season  was set for Sunday, September 27, 2009, after platform.  Have a great summer!
                                                 Meredith Sue Willis




Minutes of the Social Action Committee Meeting
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
May 3, 2009



Attending: Attending: Barbara Cotler, Zia Durrani, Boe Meyerson, Lisa Novemsky, Mira Stillman, Sue Willis, and Barry Zack.

Chair Sue Willis reported that she sent off another batch of stationery to Elizabeth Detention Center, and people promised more stationery for the next batch. She also gave a summary of what we’ve done this year (September 2008 - spring 2009):
  • We organized or suggested or otherwise supported three Sunday morning platforms: Zia Durrani’s platform on The Tea Cup Path to Peace came out of a social action committee meeting;
  • we organized with Barry Zack taking the lead a 9-28-08 Presidential “debate” with Chris Geissler, Boe Meyerson, Terri Seuss, and Win Thies,
  • and Barry also presented the 4-19-09 Renewable Energy Platform.
We organized a card writing campaign that same day.
We also wrote an Open letter to President Obama on health care that was sent to various places. We added our support and did publicity for several programs including our co-sponsorship the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race’s November 2008 discussion groups on King speeches and the “Welcome Home” Veterans project . We also have been publicizing and supporting the book Kal Wagenheim edited of creative writing by prisoners in the New Jersey Prison system.
The chair gave a report on the latest on the book, which includes a strong editorial in the Star-Ledger (See editoral and article.) but also a setback in that Rahway State Prison seems to be confiscating the book after having first allowed it in. Several copies of the book were distributed for reading, and the group agreed to the following two actions:
  • – Sue will draft an open letter to Governor Corzine using the letter she wrote to the Prison Administrator as the basis and circulate it to the group for comment and suggeston.
We will do a card writing to the Governor asking him to use his influence to have the writers of the book allowed to own copies Sunday, May 10, 2009, after platform.

Finally Barry talked about his satisfactions and some disappointment with turn-out for the April 19 Renewal Energy platform. He will be doing a similar presentation next month for the Essex Greens. On a personal note, he told us that he and Joanne will be moving in the near future. The committee will really miss your hard work and knowledge, Barry!
The next meeting was set for Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 10:00 a.m.– before the platform. We will use the session to talk about the focus for next season. Two ideas on the agenda will be Mira Stillman’s suggestion for finding a way to help local free lunch families find the services they need and the possibility of extending our activism on prison issues– in particular, the imprisonment of so many people for crimes without victims.



Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
March 29, 2009



Attending: Barbara Cotler, Barry Zack, Lisa Novemsky, Terri Suess, Zia Durrani, Sue Willis, and guests Tom Obrzut and Marty Cotler.
Chair Sue Willis reported that people are still sending her stationery for the Elizabeth Detention Center, and she is accepting contributions, but appreciates small donations for postage with them.
Barry reported on the April 19 Platform on Renewable Energy, which is to be the upbeat half of a two week environmental series. The speaker on April 12 will be Ron Pate who will speak on the film The Eleventh Hour, and Barry’s platform, supported by the Social Action Committee, will focus on what we can do to make change with (1) practical steps for our own lives and (2) by lobbying our congressional representatives and senators. He also requested help with publicizing the event. He will get a flyer to Sue digitally by the first of the week, and she will distribute to committee members. These people volunteered to put out flyers:
– Sue will take care of S.O. & Hilton libraries and the S.O. train station.
– Barbara will make the circuit of Maplewood Avenue including the Maplewood library.
– Zia will do shops in down town South Orange, centering on Sloane Street.
Barry reminded us to get more information from several websites he keeps:
Terri Seuss moved and the committee voted in favor of buying an ad for the Journal of the Peace Action dinner, which we usually do every year. Marty Cotler said there is committee money budgeted for us, so we’ll use the budget money, as we have in the past.
Terri also suggested that our next Social Action Meeting, May 3, would be a good time to do some carding, perhaps on a topic from the two environmental platforms.
We also discussed Kal Wagenheim’s collection of writing by prisoners at Trenton State, INSIDE OUT, now available. We had said we would do something to support this publication. We collected $40 from people present to buy copies, read, and think about getting reviewed and distributed. We also voted to have Sue call for information on whether or not the book has in fact been banned from the prison where it was written. At the next Social Action Committee meeting, we’ll discuss next steps.
Tom Obrzut suggested that Kal be put in touch with “Books Behind Bars,” if he isn’t already. Their website is under the aegis of . Tom also talked about his work with Homeless men in New York and the poems they write. We hope to post a few on our Ethical Culture website.

The next meeting was set for Sunday May 3, 2009, after platform.

Minutes of the Social Action Committee Meeting
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
January 25, 2009

Attending: Boe, Lisa, Gladys, Barry, Sue and visitors Dena Dworkin and Vera Dworkin

Chair Sue Willis called the meeting to order. She announced that Boe had earlier in the month sent out a request that the Committee encourage President Obama to issue an executive order to change torture policies, and he has already done this, along with several other important policy changes.

We also heard back from First Friends: The Elizabeth Detention Center Visitors Project, thanking us for the stationery supplies we collected and sent to the detainees. The group agreed that we should continue to collect supplies from the Society at large to send to the Friends for the detainees.

Sue also reported that we heard back from Kal Wagenheim after offering our committee’s support once his book of writings by prisoners at Trenton State comes out. Our idea is to give a book party or perhaps create and finance a post card or otherwise help with publicity. Wagenheim replied: “Many thanks! I am starting the publishing process and expect to have the book out no later than Feb-March 2009. I will keep you posted! Gratefully, Kal Wagenheim.”

Finally it was noted that our open letter on health care never picked up by News-Record, but is online on our website. Barry also sent it to the new president’s website, but got no reply. He reports have some measure of disappointment with the new administration’s email responsiveness to email blasts they have been sending out– another case in point being that they failed to send us a packet of information on health care for the platform on December 28, 2008.

We spent the balance of the meeting making plans for the April 19 platform on Renewable Energy. The group decided that the main focus should be on helping our audience figure out how they themselves can take action personally to reduce their carbon footprint. Boe talked about getting new triple thick windows; Barry discussed how much energy is being lost out our walls and electrical outlets. (See the websites he keeps for the Essex Greens at and for the Village of South Orange at Lisa pointed out that it is important to make sure people are not being convinced to make big changes by unscrupulous contractors.


We decided on this rough format for the platform:

– 10 minutes of general overview on What is Global Warming?
– Bulk of the time spent on things we can fix in our daily lives.
– Prepare cards or letters for people to send to legislators.


– Barry will get panel members. He is thinking of the chair of Essex Greens; possibly a solar panel installer. He will probably do the overview.
– Sue will prepare a carding or letter writing for after our platform.
– Gladys and Sue will take a list of priorities and turn it into a handout for the audience (for example, Barry says solar panels come last; fixing the holes where the cold air comes in is first).
Mira Stillman, who couldn’t attend, has also volunteered to help.
The next meeting was set for Sunday, March 29, 2009, after platform.





Minutes for Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
December 7, 2008



Attending: Barry Zack, Mira Stillman, Win Thies, Barbara Cotler, Marty Cotler, Ed Bokert, Sue Willis (with input from Boe Meyerson & Lisa Novemsky)

    The meeting began with a distribution of last month’s minutes and several reports and updates, including these announcements:  South Orange Community Organization’s Beloved Community awards are on Sunday, January 11, 2009 at South Orange Middle School at 3:00 PM; the SO/Ma Coalition on Race is having its  MLK Day event Monday Jan 19, 2009 at 3:00 at St. Joseph’s church; and the Coalition is also offering four Study Groups sessions on the on Academic Achievement Gap starting January 22 (if you’re interested, call 973-761-6116).
    We next had a report from the Chair that our Open Letter to President–elect has been ignored so far by the News-Record, but jas beem posted on the Ethical website.  Barry suggested trying the interactive new Obama site, and will try to post it there.
    We next had a report from Ed Bokert on the Welcome Home Project for returning veterans.  Its first meeting included two Vietnam Vets plus others, and the hope is to offer a safe space for veterans and families to come together and share their stories, struggles, accomplishments, and solutions. The group is hoping to draw in more young Iraq war veterans too.  The next meeting is Saturday, December 20, 2008, from 2:00 - 3:30 P.M. at the Ethical Culture Society building.
    Chair Sue Willis reported that one of our recent speakers, Kal Wagenheim, (KALWAGENHEIM@CS.COM) is preparing to publish a book of creative writing by prisoners at Trenton State.  The group instructed Sue to get in touch with him and offer our help– perhaps with a book party when the book comes out, perhaps creating and financing a post card, and getting mailing lists like Peace Actions for helping to publicize the book.  It was also suggested that individuals might try to correspond with prisoners.
    The last discussion was about our scheduled platform for April 19 on Renewable Energy.  Barry Zack is taking leadership on this, but Mira Stillman will work with him.  We decided to focus on steps individuals can take immediately, and to have both extensive web links for information and some handouts for people.  Barry already has several panelists in mind, and Win suggested that we have a separate platform that gives a fuller sense of the big picture–national and international, with public and private strategies. 
    The next meeting was set for Sunday, January 25, after platform.


Minutes for Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
November 9, 2008

Attending: Win Thies, Sue Willis, Barry Zack

The Social Action Committee met at 10:00 a.m. before platform to discuss plans for the coming months. The chair gave a few announcements, and the group then discussed the upcoming “Welcome Home Project” for returning veterans that starts Saturday, November 29 ( 3:30 – 5:00 P.M at the Society building). This is being coordinated by Ed Bokert, and we hope to support in any way we can.

We then discussed reactions to our September 28, 2008 presentation on the platforms of presidential candidates, and the chair suggested an open letter stating some of our concerns to President-elect Obama to be published in the Society newsletter and website and perhaps also at the News-Record. The process is that Barry will draft the letter, send it to Win for further input, then on to Sue who will send it to the entire committee.

We also decided to act on the decision made at our June meeting that a second focus for this year will be on Renewable Energy. We discussed how we might study and prepare for a spring platform, which has tentatively been set for Sunday April 19, 2009 after tax day and during “Earth Day.” At the next Social action committee after platform, we will begin to discuss which elements of renewable energy might be included in this panel.

Finally, Win Thies reported on a meeting of the Humanists of New Jersey which was about the work of volunteers from Final Exit who, when sought out, help people in intractable terminal suffering find appropriate means for suicide. He also reported that the state of Washington passed a measure similar to Oregon’s allowing Physician Assisted Dying. Win would like, in the long-term, to see the social action committee work more on these issues.

We then set the next meeting for Sunday, December 7, 2008, after platform at 12:45 PM.





Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
Sunday, September 21, 2008

Attending: Boe Meyerson, Lisa Novemsky, Win Thies, Sue Willis, Barry Zack, and Chris Geissler visiting.

This was a short ad hoc meeting in preparation for next week's Platform on the positions of four presidential candidates. The next regular Social Action Committee meeting will be Sunday, November 9 at 10:00 a.m.




Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
August 26, 2008

Attending: Boe Meyerson, Lisa Novemsky, Fred Sebastian, Win Thies, Sue Willis, Barry Zack, and Audrey Rowe visiting.


Chair Sue Willis called the meeting to order, and there were two main items of discussion. First we had a visit from Audrey Rowe, Program Director of the Society’s tenant, the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race who told us about, and asked for our support, with a study series on the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Two groups will meet for three sessions each to discuss three separate speeches that will be read in advance: “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence;” “Letter from the Birmingham Jail;” and “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” The purpose of the discussion groups (Tuesday group October 28, November 11, and November 18 and Wednesday group October 29, November 5, and November 12) is self-education but also to utilize a common interest in the writings of Dr. King to forge new relationships among community members of different races, religions, and ethnic groups. There will be a final event open to the public on November 19 at Columbia High School Audrey asked for volunteers to be facilitators and also to attend the next planning meeting on Tuesday, September 16 at the Coalition office (upstairs at Ethical Culture) at 7:30. Members of the Social Action Committee voted officially to co-sponsor this event, which is taking place at Ethical, and to give help with publicity and in other ways as called upon.

The second business before us was our Platform coming up on Sunday, September 28, 2008– Ethical Aspects of the Presidential Elections: Candidate Comparisons. We decided that there will be a presider/facilitator (Sue) who will give some context, offer thoughts on issues such as whether or not a totally ethical vote could ever be for one of the major political parties versus the idea of politics being the art of the possible. She will also attempt to address Mira Stillman’s emailed suggestion that we touch on some of “the important issues that are being left out of the presidential campaigns.” There will then be four speakers representing four candidates (Obama– Win, McCain– Boe, Nader– Open, and McKinney– Barry if necessary). They will each give 3 minute presentations on several topics we deemed most essential. There was considerable discussion about what the topics should be, but we finally settled on

• Healthcare
• War/returning veterans
• Climate change/environmental issues
• Tax/Economy/Poverty issues

After the presentations, which should take @45 minutes, there will be questions from the audiences. Barry has generously agreed to do the research for us in the form of a spread sheet we can print out to study and also link to from our web page. In order to elicit more participation, we agreed to ask for volunteers to participate with us (No one is doing Nader yet!) at the first platform of the fall on September 7.

We will have our next meeting at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday September 21.








June 3, 2008


Attending: Ed Bokert, Zia Durrani, Boe Meyerson, Win Thies, Sue Willis, and Barry Zack

The group began with an open discussion of what roles the committee should serve. Sue spoke briefly about the history of having been involved deeply with Citizens’ Action and of in subsequent years following the lead of members’ passions.

Several people suggested that continuing to react to events and to support members’ projects is not something we should stop doing, but Boe would like to see the committee lead the entire Essex Ethical Society into a unifying project using some of our issues.

People offered and defined various possible projects:

1. Vets welfare issues: Healing vets (PTSD), pro peace (Ed Bokert)
2. War protest as a 2008 election issue
3. Study groups to learn more about issues- to become expert (Win Thies reminded us that deep study is one part of Ethical culture), Book/Reading club as one method of attaining knowledge
4. Race-Integration Issues
5. First Friends immigration initiative (Elizabeth Detention Center)
6. PAD (Win)
7. Women's Education in Pakistan (Zia) - Recommended the book: Three Cups of Tea (Others expressed interest in the importance of Women’s education and empowerment in Africa and other places as well.
8. Various issues in renewable energy

After some discussion, the group decided to proceed with the following projects for the coming year:
– We will do a Social Action Committee Platform on September 28 that focuses on election issues by doing candidate comparisons. We will include minor party candidates and possibly used a mock debate format. Barry can do a spread sheet and web page.
– Also leading up to the election and hoping to build momentum and excitement, we hope to have a platform with Iraq Veterans against the War. Ed will get in touch with Paul Surovell or the Vets group directly to get a speaker, preferably for October.
– After this flurry of activity before November, we will have a meeting to plan a self-education series on Renewable Energy, leading to action via platforms, or other communications. The large goal here is to create a renewable energy initiation from the federal government with the commitment of the Space Program in the sixties.

We also collected money to buy envelopes for detainees at the Elizabeth Immigration detention center.

The next meeting is to be announced.






April 27, 2008


Attending: Ed Bokert, Karen Bokert, Boe Meyerson, Lisa Novemsky, Gladys Smith, Win Thies, Sue Willis, and Barry Zack

1. The Chair reminded the Committee of two events from the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race: (1 ) Tuesday, April 29: Conversations on Race: Language, Stereotypes, & Communication– 7:30 CHS cafeteria; and ( 4) Four Tuesdays in May: Discussions on the Academic Achievement gap– 7:30 South Orange Middle School – call 973-761-6116 to sign up.
2. Chair reported on an email from committee member Terri Suess informing us that Ed Lewinson has been released from the "disciplinary housing" and is now part of the general population at FCI Elkton. And the attorneys report he is happy to be there. The committee voted to send a letter wishing for his speedy return to freedom as a group, but everyone is also encouraged to write to Ed directly at this address:
Ed Lewinson 92126 -020
FCI Elkton
PO Box 10
Lisbon, OH 44432
3. Barry Zack reported on the great success of the SOLAR ENERGY FORUM program on that he organized and took place on Thursday, April 24 at the Society building– in fact, people had to be reminded to leave at the end of the evening!
4. We also had an Update on the Warrior Project from Ed Bokert who told us about an upcoming 2 Day workshop at the Theosophical Society of Monmouth County on May 23-24. For information, call 732-695-2758. Secondly, he talked about his ideas for an in-hospital work with returned soldiers, specifically organizing one-on-one visits to veterans from Society members and others at the East Orange VA Hospital. He is also hoping to set up meditation services in the East Orange VA hospital, and will be going to meet with administrators with Betty Levin, and possibly with Boe. Ed is an ordained minister of the Spiritual Humanist, and Boe is going to look into whether or not he might also be given credentials from the AEU as an associate leader so his work could be associated with Ethical Culture. The Committee voted unanimously to support this project, and individuals enthusiastically volunteered to be considered as potential volunteers: Gladys Smith, Karen Bokert, and Boe Meyerson.
5. We agreed that we would set a Tuesday afternoon meeting in late May or early June to sit down and talk for an hour and a half or so about our goals for the coming period of time. Please let me know ASAP if you can come Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at 2:00 PM at the Society Building. I’ve chosen the time based on my schedule, but I am flexible.



Karen Bokert's Report on April 6 Meeting with Ed Tick

First of all, he said, the hardest part is getting started. He showed his film and we began to realize how very important our complete love and acceptance will be to any vets that come our way. It is the key healing component. Also, he wanted us to feel the pain, and to understand and realize that working with vets is going to be painful work for us and we need to become acclimpated to it.
He gave those who are interested in this project, several ways to get started: Have a war movie night for several months so that we get used to the horrors. There are several fine ones out there that we could use. i.e. STOP-LOSS.
Once we get a vets group going, use the arts - music, dancing, poetry, and fine arts to help them express their inner feelings
Use meditation - it's a gentle but very effective way to open them up.
Speak  about Buddhism which is the main reason that the Vietnamese do not have PTSD .
Have a 24/7 hotline for any vet that may need to talk to a qualified person.
He gave out a sheet with about 25 ways to begin working to help the vets. (I'm sure you have this list). Basically, it says to us that a retraining of'our culture needs  to be done.
He said that PTSD begins in boot camp.
He said we should learn from other cultures about how they have treated their returning warriors, i.e. the Native Americans. He wentinto a lengthy explanation about what Natives do in their culture and there is no PTSD in their warriors.
If there are any Iraqis living in the area, try to bring them in to talk to the vets, the goal might be some kind of reconciliation.
He was also very concerned about the families of our soldiers. Perhaps a program could be started to invite these and listen to their angers, fears,problems, etc.
Sat Nam.   Karen Bokert




March 30, 2008


Attending: Betty Levin, Win Thies, Lisa Novemsky, Doris Rados, Boe Meyerson, Mira Stillman, Sue Willis, Gladys Smith, Sylvia Kramer, & Barbara Cotler
This was a super-short meeting because of the Society Brainstorming session at 1:00 P.M. We set our next meeting for Sunday, April 27, 2008 after platform. We began with an update on Ed Lewinson who is to report to prison in a few days to serve his sentence for protesting the former School of the Americas. It is not too late to write letters to your member of congress asking to have him sent to Fort Dix rather than to the Ohio prison. It was reported that Congressman Donald Payne intends to take action on this when he gets back to Washington.
Congressman Payne was at the “Be About Peace Day” on Saturday night, March 29, 2008, which was a big success with a lot of participation and good energy. We congratulate Paul Surovell and South Mountain Peace Action on the event!
Betty updated us on the Warrior Project. Dr. Ed Tick will be giving the platform next week, and at 1:00 there will be an organization meeting for planning what our society can do to help returning Iraq War veterans. This project is co-sponsored by the Social Action Committee, so we hope everyone can attend.
After setting the next meeting for 4-27-08, we adjourned.

February 10, 2008

Attending: Betty Levin, Win Thies, Lisa Novemsky, Doris Rados, Boe Meyerson, Barry Zack, Mira Stillman, Terri Seuss, Ed Lewinson, Karen Bokert, Fred Sebastian, Ed Bokert, Sue Willis.

The Social Action committee met as usual after platform in the main meeting room. The meeting began with short reports: our Op-Ed piece on Health Care appeared in the Maplewood-South Orange News-Record; also, Teri Seuss reported that the Martin Luther King reading group started up again on Friday and will be meeting on first Fridays of March, April, May, and June from 7:00 PM till 9:00 PM at the Society building. She requested co-sponsorship by the committee, which was agreed upon unanimously.

Chair Sue Willis next talked about the Department of Peace Initiative surrounding the 11th Season of Nonviolence-- Jan 30 through April 4, the anniversary of the assassination of Gandhi through the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. For more information, go to and/or Department of Peace website at Sue brought valentines for local members of congress either asking them to co-sponsor the Department of Peace bill H.R. 808 or to thank members like Donald Payne who are already co-sponsors. Several committee members prepared the valentines for posting.

Next, Terri Seuss and Ed Lewinson asked the committee to co-sponsor a potluck dinner in honor of Ed who is about to serve his 90 day sentence in federal prison for stepping onto the property of the Western Hemisphere Institution for Security Cooperation, formerly the infamous School of the Americas that taught torture and other techniques and to military personnel all over the Americas. The committee unanimously agreed to support this event, which will take place at the Society building on February 22 at 6:30 PM. It will be a combination of send-off to Ed and update on the institution Ed was protesting. The Solidarity singers will perform, and it should be an informative and uplifting event.

Other items included Win Thies’s proposal that, at some point after his February 17 platform Achieving Freedom for the Dying Now, that the Social Action Committee consider participating in the formation of a Final Exit Network group. No decision was made at this time.

Finally, Betty Levin and Ed Bokert talked about the Warrior Project for which they are planning a retreat to show a movie about veterans returning to Vietnam, then train volunteers in working with returning veterans. They hope eventually to put together a retreat for returned veterans to go through A Hero’s Journey of remembering and stress reduction.

The next meeting was set for Sunday, March 30, 2008 after platform.



December 2, 2007

Attending:, Barry Zack, Barbara Cotler, Lisa Novemsky, Boe Meyerson, Win Thies, Gladys Smith, Sue Willis. Visiting: Karen Bokert, Ed Bokert
The Social Action Committee had a brief meeting after platform to get an update on the Warrior Project. Betty Levin was not able to make the presentation due to snowy conditions, but Ed Bokert and Boe Meyerson gave the basic information, and the Committee decided by acclamation to consider the Warrior Project a project or subcommittee of the Social Action Committee of the Essex Ethical Culture Society. This means the group can use the building facilities, will keep us updated, and will, perhaps, at some future time ask our assistance in other ways.
Chair Sue Willis distributed copies of a draft op-ed piece on Health Care growing out of the platform we presented on October 28. Sue will be sending the piece electronically to committee members who will get back to her with suggestions by December 7
The group decided not to set a meeting till we could arrange it with Betty to get more information on the Warrior Project.

September 16, 2007

Attending: Betty Levin, Boe Meyerson, Barbara Cotler, Doris Rados, Sue Willis. Visiting: Marty Cotler.

Chair Sue Willis reported that the press release with the committee’s statement is ready to send out @ October 1. It includes the text: "The American Health Care system is too expensive, and it delivers inferior and unequal care. Adequate health care for every individual must be seen as a basic human right." The press release also will be publicizing the Social Action Committee’s Interactive Platform on October 28 at the Sunday morning Platform.

Most of the rest of the meeting was spent planning and discussing that platform. The plan is for a brief introduction to some of the problems of health care delivery in the U.S. followed by brief presentations of several presidential candidate’s plans as a means of focusing our thinking and beginning to look at some of the possibilities. Boe Meyerson will take one candidate plus do the overall discussion of Canadian style health care. Win has agreed to do a candidate (perhaps Mitt Romney whose plan for the state of Massachusetts has actually been tried out). Barbara Cotler will do a personal response to the value of Medicare. Sue will facilitate and do a candidate if necessary.
The program will end with an extended Q&A and comments from the audience.

HOWEVER–We need more participants. The research is minimal– you look up the candidate and get a three minute outline of what they plan for health care. If you don’t have time, Sue will give you info. Please get in touch ASAP! or 973-378-8361.

We also agreed to do a carding, also on October 28, with our statement on health care.

Finally, we set a brief touching-base meeting for the Sunday immediately before our platform, October 21, just after platform. We will make sure everything is in place for the platform and the carding.

Note: An article of interest:




Minutes --Social Action Committee Meeting-- July 9, 2007 7:00 PM

Attending: Boe Meyerson, Mira Stillman, Win Thies, & Sue Willis
The group discussed two areas of concern, first, our interest in the reform of health care in the United States and second, how we can participate in activities aimed at stopping climate change. Boe is particularly interested in finding activities that large numbers of Society members can participate in.
We took the following actions/ decisions:
1. We voted to accept as final the statement drafted last meeting on health care:
The American Health Care system is too expensive, and it delivers inferior and unequal care. Adequate health care for every individual must be seen as a basic human right.
2. In order to have some impact with this admittedly general statement, we have decided to do the following things:
  • Win and Sue will write an op-ed piece to be submitted to the News-Record and possibly elsewhere. This will ideally appear around the time of our October Platform
  • The group will create an October Platform in which we pretend to be various presidential candidates and present their proposals for health care reform. We hope this will clarify people's thinking about this issue and perhaps inform their decisions in their voting in November and beyond. Note: at present, this is scheduled tentatively for Sunday, October 28 as the other October platforms were already taken.
  • We will also prepare a carding or petition.
  • If you haven't read the online articles with links here, try to take a look.
3. Mira Stillman reported on an initiative from the Maplewood Climate Initiative Steering Committee.  She says this committee is moving forwards energetically.  It is working out details of Maplewood's action plan on climate change, planning for a Green Fair on October 6th, which the Social Action Committee hopes to have some participation in. To help with Maplewood's Gree Fair, please call  Bob McCoy at 973-378-3114. Further, Mira reported that the Committee is looking for people who live in Maplewood and might be climate change "community block captains." For information, call Stewart Glickman at 917-885-1009.
The most  important goals for this efforts are:

-- Sign up our neighbors for the NJ Clean Power Choice Program (a brochure is available) address is ; 125 households have signed up already in Maplewood.  They are trying to get to 850 households or 10% of total households as quickly as possible.
-- Explain and encourage recycling, including co-mingling -- many people do no understand Maplewood's change to co-mingling as of January 1.
-- Explain and encourage changing lightbulbs and other energy-saving measures in the home.
4. We set our next meeting for Sunday, September 16, 2007, immediately after the Platform.




Minutes --Social Action Committee Meeting--June 4, 2007 7:00 PM


Attending: Barbara Cotler, Boe Meyerson, Doris Rados, Gladys Smith, Win Thies, Sue Willis

The meeting began with chair Sue Willis reporting that our ad was put in the NJ Peace Action Dinner Journal. She then reported on a request from Columbia High School's Animal Rights Club that we support them in presenting a speaker, and the group agreed to do this. It isn’t clear yet if the group is asking to use the building with our sponsorship or to offer a platform speaker. We’ll find out which.

There was also a report from Leader Boe Meyerson about the clergy council’s efforts to have the community raise money to build a house, probably in Newark, though Habitat for Humanity. She challenged the clergy by saying that the proposed name for the project, Abraham House, was appropriate for the three monotheistic religions but did not include other religions such as Buddhism or Ethical Humanism, and a compromise is being worked on.

We then began our discussion of Health Care in the U.S., focusing on how health care should be paid for, how to assure quality care for all, and what is likely to be possible in the present political climate. Barbara Cotler praised Medicare, and Doris said we should try to find some approach that would bring results sooner rather than later. She, Gladys, and others suggested that we might want to focus our efforts on New Jersey. Boe and Sue expressed their strong preference for single payer health care and for everyone rich and poor being in the same pool. Win pointed out that the new experiments in the various states are assiduously avoiding a confrontation with the powerful insurance companies. Massachusetts, for example, which is penalizing people who do not acquire health coverage, is using insurance companies for health care.

There was a lively debate over whether, if we were to endorse single payer, it would be pie-in-the sky or rather a way of influencing the debate. Gladys proposed that we make a statement, work in our local communities for buy-in first, then perhaps do some group study and educate ourselves and others, and end with some larger event like a health fair.

Win suggested seminars; he, Sue and others thought we ought to work towards a platform that would focus our thoughts. We set a next meeting for Monday evening July 9, 2007, at which we would begin plans for this platform and other possible actions.

Meanwhile, the group agreed on a preliminary statement, to be finalized by email:


“The American Health Care system is too expensive, and it delivers inferior and unequal care. Adequate health care for every individual must be seen as a basic human right.”



Minutes April 1, 2007

Attending: Betty Levin, Mira Stillman, Boe Meyerson, Gladys Smith, Lisa Novemsky, Win Thies, Sue Willis
Chair’s report included that the Elliott-Black Award: Winner was the Committee to Protect Journalists (see the organization’s website at ). Also, at the chair’s recommendation, the committee agreed not to rejoin New Jersey Citizen Action– too expensive for us at ($100). Betty suggested that we tell them we can only offer moral not financial support. The group then voted that we would, when asked, buy an ad for NJ Peace Action Journal.
Next, Mira Stillman reported on actions for conservation. She talked to Mayor Fred Profeta when he was speaking at the Society last week, and he invited her to be on the Mayor’s Taskforce for Greening Maplewood, which will be formed in the next three or four weeks after the Maplewood Township Committee votes on a proposal presently being drafted. The Committee voted to ask Mira to be the representative of the Essex Ethical Culture Society Social Action Committee on the task force. Mira agreed to do do this, and said that she she hopes the next step will be to find more workers to do education of the public on how to green our lives. This led to some discussion, including Lisa Novemsky’s point that it is not always simple to green– that each idea must be considered “cradle to grave,” so that one knows if it is disposable as well as conservative of energy. Lisa noted that all the Committee members who live in Maplewood were wearing green....
Mira also reported on Terri Suess’s idea for an event next month to spread the word about greening and to link it to peace, and the group is eager to give support to this.
Win Thies then reported that he has so far not been able to get an expert to suggest a few digestible articles on a rational/national health care plan, but that he has more leads and will keep working on it. Our objective is self education and then broader education of the public leading to a position and possible platforms on the issue.
We will do a carding on stopping the New Jersey Death penalty again (we did one a few weeks back). This will take place at coffee hour on April 22. Win will take the lead on organizing this.
The group expressed satisfaction with the plan of having more frequent but shorter meetings, and the next meeting was set for Monday, June 4, 7:00 PM at the Society Building.

Minutes March 4, 2007

Attending: Barbara Cotler, Boe Meyerson, Anja Moen, Gladys Smith, Mira Stillman, Win Thies, Sue Willis

We began by discussing the nominees for the AEU’s Elliott Black award, and after some discussion and appreciation of all the nominees, decided to cast our one vote for our nominee, Matthew La Clair.

Mira Stillman then discussed her work nine months ago on conserving energy and asked if the committee would be willing to work again on a project, yet to be created, that would publicize things individuals can to do save energy. She will offer our services publically to Maplewood Mayor Fred Profeta when he speaks at the Society later this month. We will then, at our next social action committee meeting, plan a specific action.

Sue Willis and Win Thies then presented the idea of working on universal health coverage. 47 million Americans are uninsured, and the US “spends more than twice as much on health care, on average, as the 21 countries in which life expectancy exceeds ours. American costs are so high in part because the reliance on private insurance multiplies administrative expenses, currently about 31 percent of total outlays....Canada’s single-payer health system, which covers everyone, spends less than 17 percent on administrative expenses.” (Robert H. Frank, “A Health Care Plan So Simple, Even Stephen Colbert Couldn’t Simplify It,” The New York Times, 2-25-07, p. C-3.)

Win proposed that we begin by educating ourselves on the issue before we actually adopt a preferred proposal and then support it. He will consult an expert and get a few articles for us to read. If possible, we’ll read some things before the next Social Action Committee meeting, which will take place on ....

Next meeting: Sunday, April 1, 2007 after platform.

Special thanks to Marshall for a bowl of delicious popcorn!





Minutes January 7, 2007

Attending: Lisa, Gus, Anja, Win, Paul, Sue, Boe, Betty, Mira


This was a brief meeting with a few reports and a plan to meet again on Sunday, March 4, 2007 after platform.

Win reported that he wrote a letter to Dr. Jack Kevorkian hoping to recommend him for the AEU’s 2007 Elliot-Black award with a deadline of January 31, 2007. He has not heard back. Dr. Kevorkian is quite ill and scheduled to be paroled in June.

Anja, Gus, Sue, and Paul reported on the success of the meeting we co-sponsored on Saturday, January 6 with the Martin Luther King Holiday Committee: “ Falsely Convicted and Exonerated: A Community Forum and Reception with David Shepard, Larry Peterson, & Professor Delores Jones-Brown.”

Inspired by the meeting, Anja and Gus are planning to do an “After Innocence” event in March with a movie, in support of work to solve the problems of people like the speakers yesterday who have lost ten and more years of their lives to prison and now need help with jobs etc. The Social Action Committee will co-sponsor this event.

More important information that came out of the meeting was that State legislators need to be encouraged to vote in favor of abolishing the death penalty in New Jersey now that abolishing it has been strongly recommended by the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission Report .We decided to do a post carding at next week’s platform to ask senators and assembly members to move this forward immediately. Gus, Win, and Sue have committed to doing the carding on Sunday, January 14, 2007.



Minutes December 3, 2006

Attending: Lisa Novemsky, Barbara Cotler, Anja Moen, Win THies, Boe Meyerson, Sue Willis, Paul Surovell. Visitor: Julie Verratti of MassEquity & Garden State Equality.


Organizer Julie Verratti of MassEquity and Garden State Equality spoke briefly about the need for help next week-end during a big organizing push to get the NJ state legislature to put language into proposed legislation for “civil marriage” that would include same sex couples instead of the separate status of “civil unions.”

We had a short discussion about things we’ve done so far this fall, and they include a successful Interactive Platform on Oct. 22 called “Resolving conflict the Department of Peace Way.” Participants included Boe, Win, Sue, Anja, Lisa– and the whole audience. We also supported the Voting Rights Teach-in organized by Fred Sebastian on September 17, 2006 1:00 - 3:00 PM. Also, several of our committee’s ideas for platforms have come to pass: The voting issue platform; Michael Novemsky (a different topic from what we suggested); our Peace Department platform; speakers on the situation at the Elizabeth detention center.

Our main order of business was to decide who to recommend for the AEU’s 2007 Elliot-Black award with a deadline of January 31, 2007. There is a fair amount of work involved including getting in touch with the nominee and sending a letter, detailed statement, and candidate’s bio. We had two suggestions, Dr. Jack Kevorkian (who we have nominated twice before, in 2002 and 2001) and the couple Michael Rosen and Leslie Gruss who were profiled in the New York Times for their family’s support of a group of poor boys from their neighborhood. After some discussion, the group unanimously chose to nominate Dr. Kevorkian, with Win agreeing to do the lion’s share of the preparatory work, and Boe planning to do some research on Rosen and Gruss for possible future honoring.

It was also suggested that we might again work toward Lisa and Sue’s idea of honoring in some small way once a year some local ethical hero.

Mira Stillman, who was not available for the meeting, is planning a meeting with the Maplewood mayor about how to help educate residents about conservation of energy. We decided that our Social Action Committee should give support, and in particular, Barbara and Boe are willing to go to the meeting with Mira and her sister.

In a related matter, Anja said she had an idea for a recycling/environmental day for the town which might also be suggested to the township.

The next meeting, at which time, after the holidays, we’ll plan for some cardings and other actions, will be on Sunday, January 7, 2007 after platform.



Minutes October 15, 2006

The Social Action Committee met to plan our platform next week, which will be an Interactive session: Resolving conflict the Department of Peace Way. We discussed the Bill to establish a Cabinet Level Department of peace, and decided that the platform will explore what it might be like if we had a Cabinet Level Department of Peace through a short presentation, role-playing, and discussion. We hope to lead the attendees at this interactive platform in thinking about a national or international problem using the tools that would be in place if a Department of Peace were established — education tools, diplomatic tools, etc. For more information on the proposed Department of Peace, see Participating in this will be Social Action Committee members including Boe Meyerson, Sue Willis, Win Thies, and Anja Moen. Also attending were Barbara Cotler and Doris Rados.

The next meeting will be Sunday, December 3, 2006, after platform.





Minutes Social Action Committee Meeting
July 19, 2006

The summer meeting took place at the Society building with a small but enthusiastic group that began by going over last year's goals (click here) and a letter from Fred Sebastian with a suggestion for a focus for the this year– illegal and undemocratic voting machines.
    After some discussion, the group expressed a desire to find ways to continue to have at least a connection to some of our last year's work.  Boe suggested focusing both on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East and on the Department of Peace Bill; Anja talked about her work in the coming year with Sew for Hope and other involvement in Afghanistan and its women and girls.  Sue wanted more short term projects and to continue funneling ideas for platforms for the platform committee.
    Here are the things we came up with, which we would like to have input and support from the rest of the committee on.  First, we brain stormed some possible platform ideas.  These are just ideas, of course, no one has been asked yet if they are available.


Fred Sebastian has speakers on the voting machine scandal that would make a good platform
           Michael Novemsky on global warming/living lightly on the earth (or other)
         – A speaker from MeretzUSA or GushAmon or other peace-oriented group with connections to Israel
    – Marty Cotler on where to get the real/best/least biased news
    – Nabil Marshood on ethnic relations or other
    – And a platform by the Social Action Committee!!  Which leads to....

II.   Our second idea was for a platform, possibly in late October around U.N. Day.  This would be an interactive platform in which the Social Action Committee would lead the audience in breaking up into small groups to deal with some national or international problem using the tools that would be in place if a Department of Peace were established.  Thus, one group might brainstorm how the problem would be worked on in schools and other educational institutions; one might be discussed in terms on international diplomacy that focuses on problem solving, etc.  Boe and Sue will work on this project, and we invite others to work on planning it with us. The committee will also give occasional support to Anja Moen\'s work with Sew for Hope (which is responding to a need for fabric, needles, and thread in Afghanistan).  She is organizing a garage sale to raise money for the project on September 9 & 10, and she\'ll tell us what concrete help she needs from the Committee and the Society.\n

IV.  Anja will make one more try with the people who teach how to work with the Elizabeth Detention Center.  If her efforts fail this time, we\'ll let this one drop.

V.  Another one shot but very exciting project:   DARK DAYS AHEAD!  We will buy a supply of efficient light bulbs and sell them at cost early in December on the street or on the Society\'s porch with information about saving resources.  This will be both a practical step (more people will be replacing their bulbs with the energy efficient ones) and an opportunity for education.\n

What do you think?  We think these actions are doable and related to our last year\'s goals (Department of Peace, Detention Centers, Global Warming).  Please let us know what you think!

III.  The committee will also give occasional support to Anja Moen's work with Sew for Hope (which is responding to a need for fabric, needles, and thread in Afghanistan).  She is organizing a garage sale to raise money for the project on September 9 & 10, and she'll tell us what concrete help she needs from the Committee and the Society.

IV.  Anja will make one more try with the people who teach how to work with the Elizabeth Detention Center.  If her efforts fail this time, we'll let this one drop.

V.  Another one shot but very exciting project:   DARK DAYS AHEAD!  We will buy a supply of efficient light bulbs and sell them at cost early in December on the street or on the Society's porch with information about saving resources.  This will be both a practical step (more people will be replacing their bulbs with the energy efficient ones) and an opportunity for education.

What do you think?  We think these actions are doable and related to our last year's goals (Department of Peace, Detention Centers, Global Warming).  Please let us know what you think!




Minutes Social Action Committee Meeting
April 9, 2006

Attending: Barbara Cotler, Anja Moen, Boe Meyerson, Paul Surovell, Sue Willis, Peter Jacob ( Students for Solidarity and Justice at Kean University)

This short meeting had been set up to prepare a statement on the detention centers for immigrants in order to have a carding on April 23. Before addressing that, we did vote to put an ad in the Peace Action journal, if it is not too late.

After some discussion of the Detention Center issue, Barbara suggested a simple post card message to be sent to Senators and Representatives (as the detention centers are federal). Please look at the following message and offer any suggestions, keeping in mind that it has to be short enough to go on a post card.

Dear Senator (Representative) __________ ,
Please give urgent consideration to creating more humane conditions and easier access to lawyers and visitors for the detainees at the Elizabeth Detention Facility, a temporary detention center for people waiting for their immigration status to be determined, or who are awaiting deportation. This particular facility is adminstered by a much-criticized private company, the Corrections Corporation of America.
Please help create better conditions at the Elizabether Detention Facility and others like it.

We reaffirmed our intention to bring cards, letters, stamps, addresses, etc. on April 23rd for after the platform, and and Anja, Barbara, and Sue all committed to being present. Peter Jacob also hopes to come, as well as to include his organization. Meanwhile, Paul will follow up with the American Friends Service Committee to see if there is any other information we can add to what we have.

Our guest Peter Jacob told us about a new student activist organization at Kean (look at their website at He is a junior at Kean, invited to meet us by Boe. He intends to take some of our pre-printed post cards and addresses of U.S. Senators and Representatives to Kean.

We set our next meeting set for Sunday, June 11, 2006– to evaluate and to discuss plans and goals for coming months.





Minutes Social Action Committee Meeting
March 5, 2006

Barbara Cotler and Terri Suess reported on yesterday’s meeting of the Social Action subcommittee on Global Warming and environmental issues, a committee ably chaired by Mira Stillman. The group had a presentation about how to live more lightly on the earth at the Society on Saturday March 4, 2006. Attendees brought energy utility bills and took a quiz to learn how much energy they are using and how they can do better. Plans for the future include taking this kind of training to other organizations and meeting with the political leaders of Maplewood and South Orange to see what the towns can do to encourage savings on energy consumption and thus to stave off global warming. This falls under one of our 2005 - 2006 objections, “To take actions to curtail Global Warming.”

Another of our objectives is to “work to ease the situation of immigrants in the Detention Center in Elizabeth New Jersey.” This objective has broadened as the year has progressed. In January we had a visit from former Elizabeth detainee Serge Pakhomou and a speaker from The New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee (NJCRDC– website at

Today Terri gave us an update on Serge’s case. He had his court date, and his case was postponed until December, 2006. Terri says that Serge was disappointed to be left once again in limbo, but that he is ready to work with her on creating a fact sheet both about immigration and about the notorious Corrections Company of America.

The Committee decided to do a letter writing-carding campaign at the platform on April 23, 2006 at the Society. In preparation for this, we will, at our April 9, 2006 meeting, talk through the message we want to set forth. To educate ourselves on this issue, people committed to do the following:
*** Terri will work, with Serge if possible, on a fact sheet about immigration, the Elizabeth Detention Center, and the CCA.
*** Paul Surovell will do a little research about other organizations working on these issues and what legislation and other actions they are taking that might inform out discussion.
*** Anja Moen will find out if it is feasible to do a training for visitors to the Elizabeth Detention Center.

Our third objective this year is continuing to support and publicize the National Peace Department Bill. Paul and South Mountain Peace Action are preparing to make a visit to Senator Lautenberg and other governmental officials about the National Peace Department Bill and other issues, to which he will invite our committee when the meetings are set up.

One other action we took was to vote to empower Chair Sue Willis to enroll our committee among the groups opposing AOL’s projected two tier system for free e-mail. AOL has announced a "certified email" proposal through which large emailers can pay to get guaranteed access to people's in boxes—with their messages having a preferential high-priority designation. Charities, small businesses, civic organizing groups, and even families with mailing lists will have no guarantee that their email will be delivered unless they are willing to pay the "email tax" to AOL. This is a step down the slippery slope toward dividing the Internet into two classes of users—those who get preferential treatment and those who are left behind. The Internet is a force for democracy and economic innovation because it is open to all Internet users equally – AOL's "email tax" would create an unlevel playing field and harm the Internet forever. If you would like to sign a petition as an individual, go to .

Finally a piece of good news passed on to us by Matthew Johnson of the New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is that on January 9, 2006, by a 55 – 21 vote, the New Jersey General Assembly approved S-709/A-2347, legislation calling for an immediate moratorium on all executions in New Jersey and creating a study commission that will examine the flaws in the State’s current death penalty system. On January 12, 2006 New Jersey Governor Richard Codey signed S-709/A-2347. This bipartisan bill is the first legislative moratorium in the United States. The report will be submitted on November 15, 2006. For more information, and to join NJADP, go to their website . Their mailing address is New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, NJADP Central Office, 986 South Broad Street, Trenton, NJ 08611, Phone: 609-278-6719

The next meeting will be Sunday, April 9, 2006, at the Society building. after the platform. Please come!





Minutes Social Action Committee Meeting
January 22, 2006


We had an unusual two part meeting with members of the Society Board attending for part of the meeting, then going to the Board meeting. Meanwhile, the rest of the Social Action Committee repaired to the kitchen for excellent hot ziti and sauce provided by Win Thies. Thank you, Win for your generosity!

During the two parts of the meeting, we had two separate presentations on aspects of the situation for immigrants at the present time in the United States. First, Serge Pakhomou, an oceanographer and student of forensic science who came to the U.S. from Russia fifteen years ago, told us his experience. His application for asylum was rejected after years of applications and effort, but he was not informed of the decision or of a deportation order that was put out against him. Meanwhile, through his job, he was pursuing a green card. When he went to a regular hearing, he was arrested because of the outstanding deportation order and taken to the Elizabeth detention center, a facility run by a for-profit company called the Corrections Corporation of America.. Mr. Pakhomou told us that most of the inmates there are tax payers, many highly educated, and people with family connections. Most are also, he said, in prison for very small technicalities. He was ultimately released and his next hearing later this month. Mr. Pakhomou suggested that a small group like ours might help by visiting and talking to detainees in Elizabeth, but also that we should find other groups and make connections. Terri Suess recommended that we write an article on Serge, to put a human face on immigration issues, and also do research into the CCA and how it is profiting from people being held for immigration offenses.

After moving into the kitchen and enjoying Win’s ziti, we were visited by Eric Lerner of the New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee (See their website at The NJCRDC has been focusing its efforts on trying to publicize the plight of detainees who are being held in county jails. They have organzied petitions signed by the inmates and by demonstrations on the outside. They have had a major success in the upcoming removal of detainees from the Passaic County jail. They also have set up a hotline for detainees and are seeking volunteers for their future demonstrations and possible to person hotlines when detainees need to talk to someone.

Mr. Lerner also gave an excellent overview of how there are not only practical needs for action and help for the detainees, but serious constitutional issues as well. The Constitutional issue is that it is not, in fact, a crime to be a so-called “illegal alien.” It is further unconstitutional, said Mr. Lerner, to hold people who are not accused of a crime. We further discussed the far reaching possible consequences of “administrative detention,” which is how most of these immigrants are being held, and how if immigrants not accused of crimes can be detained, what is to stop a dictatorial government from detaining others, also administratively.

Our next meeting is set for March 5, 2006, after the platform, at which time we will discuss next steps. Tentatively, there is also a platform set for March 26 with representatives of the NJCRDC. Thanks to Fred Sebastian for this connection, and deep thanks to Mr. Pakhomou and Mr. Lerner for their most informative presentations.





Social Action Committee Meeting --December 11, 2005

We set Sunday, January 22, 2006 for our next meeting, which will be devoted to a visit from Serge Pakhomou, who has himself spent time at the Elizabeth detention center.

Anja Moen made a report on the Elizabeth Detention Center Project: we will be arranging a training session for people who want to visit detainees probably in February, which timing fits in well with a visit from Serge Pakhomou. Anja is also working on a speaker on the topic, and Fred Sebastian suggested another speaker he knows, and he will get in touch with that person and then speak to Elaine of the Platform Committee.

Anja has also arranged for a speaker on March 26 on the situation of women in Afghanistan. We had some lively discussion around money– what we should pay for, the incredible inequity in what we spend for different things: for example, an entire new school for Afghan girls and women would cost about what it costs for one year for one of our children at many colleges.

Betty Levin then gave an excellent update on the Bill in Congress (both houses now!) to establish a cabinet level Department of Peace with responsibilities for education. The Committee also voted to contribute $25 toward Naomi Drew’s fee for the November 5 Conflict resolution workshop which had 35 attendees.

Finally, Joan volunteered, if she can get Gus to help, to organize a mid-January “carding” with information to encourage our legislators to vote to get out of Iraq in 2006.



Social Action Committee Meeting
November 15, 2005


Report lost in cyberspace-- Sue had a hard drive crash!






Social Action Committee Meeting
September 18, 2005


The meeting began with several short reports: first, the sub-committee on "greening" the Ethical Culture society had to reschedule for Monday evening, September 26 at Mira Stillman's house. This group will be looking into practical ways to take action to "green" the society and otherwise act in responsible ways vis-a-vis our human impact on the environment and global warming. In a related matter, Sue reported that Paul Surovell has suggested Dr. DeLaTorre as a Platform speaker on these matters.

The subcommittee and Platform speakers on this topic are, of course, working toward our Objective # Three for 2005-06, to take actions to curtail Global Warming. The three Objectives that will be mentioned in these minutes were developed and voted on at our June, 2005 meeting.

Our Objective # Two, to work to ease the situation of immigrants in the Detention Center in Elizabeth New Jersey, led us to some discussion of possible activities. Joan and Anja have taken the training required for visiting with detainees at the detention center, and Joan reported that we already have immigrants living in our community who need help. Anja will make a presentation with suggestions for action at the next Social Action Committee meeting.

Terri Suess reported via Sue that the Russian immigrant Serge Pakhomou, seized for a visa violation he was not aware of, was released on September 1.

The final short report came from Win who described the information about Living Wills now available on our website. Go to and click on "Planning Your Living Will" to see our materials. Gus suggested that a program on Living Wills might be offered as a service every year.

Our major presentation of the meeting came from Betty Levin who brought us up to date on the National Department of Peace, continuing to support and publicize which is our Objective # One. Betty first told us that the Bill, H.R. 3760 was reintroduced into the House on Wednesday, September 14. This bill now has some sixty House sponsors plus at least two interested Senators. It would establish a cabinet level Department in the Federal government with a responsibility to educate about and othedrwise promote peace. For detailed information on the bill, go to Betty spoke eloquently of the need to call our representatives immediately and to ask them to support the bill, especially by becoming a co-sponsor.

Betty has also taken the lead in local action for peace at our Society. The Social Action Committee is co-sponsoring a Conflict Resolution Workshop with Naomi Drew at the Society Building on Saturday November 5 from 1 - 5, organized by Betty. For more information about Naomi Drew, see her website at


The next meeting of the committee was set for Sunday, October 25, 2005 immediately after the Platform.


Bob Call picked up Ed yesterday to drive from Ed's place in Newark to the Federal Correction Institution  (FCI) at Elkton, Ohio.  That's where Ed has been assigned to do his 90 day jail sentence for committing civil disobedience by crossing on to Fort Benning, GA while protesting the School of the Americas at the SOA-Watch protest last November.  Ed reported to the prison at 2 p.m today, April 3rd.   (Bob had served time earlier for committing civil disobedience at the SOA-Watch protests, so it was great that he could take Ed over to Elkton.)

People's Organization for Progress held a protest in front of the Federal Building last week in support of Dr. Lewinson, calling for him to be re-assigned closer to home so people could visit him. Ed also filed a written request for re-assignment with Congressman Payne's office March 21st.  Since then, people have been calling Senator Launtenberg's office and Senator Menendez' office as well.  

But as of yesterday, there was no re-assignment, so Bob picked Ed up early in the morning, and they left on their drive to Ohio.

I spoke with Theresa Call, this afternoon and she told me that Tom Mehedy had called SOA-Watch in Washington, D.C. to see if there were any supporters near Elkton, OH.  Tom was put in touch with a Pax Christie group in Youngstown, OH, about 30 miles from the prison.   When that group heard Ed and Bob would be arriving the day before Ed had to report, they arranged for a potluck supper last night to greet them.  This morning, a priest from Pittsburgh was going to meet Ed and Bob at the courthouse and accompany Ed to the prison.   

So even though we did not succeed in having Ed re-assigned to a closer prison, as of yet, at least he is not alone over in Ohio.   There are people nearby who know where he is, and who will also be supporting him while he is in prison. 

Attachment to this email contains information I copied from the Bureau of Prisons' website and specifically about Elkton.  You can also google FCI Elkton, Ohio for more information.  (Also, in the attached word file there is a reference link to a .pdf that you can check out if you would like to visit Ed. It gives all the information about rules and regulations related to visiting inmates.  It is 23 pages long!)

If you would like to write to Ed  -- here is his address: 

Dr. Edwin Lewinson  #92126-020
FIC Elkton
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 10
Lisbon, OH  44432

I am sure hearing from everyone will help Ed keep his spirits up while he is in jail doing his time.  

Also, there is a possibility Ed may be re-assigned during his prison sentence to a federal facility closer to home.   It has been suggested that people continue calling Congressman Payne's office to find out what progress has been made, and also Senators Launtenberg and Menendez offices.  (Although Sen. Launtenberg's office said that since Congressman Payne's office received the initial written request, it would be best to have them work on it.)

Well, I think that's about all for now. 

Terri Suess


2005-2006 Objectives


Objectives for 2005 - 2006 as voted on at the June 2005 meeting:

Objective # One:
     Continue to support and publicize the National Peace Department Bill which will be re-introduced into Congress on September 10.

Objective # Two:
    Work to ease the situation of immigrants in the Detention Center in Elizabeth New Jersey.

Objective # Three:
     Take actions to curtail Global Warming, particularly to work towards a "green" Ethical Culture Society and to educate our members and the public.



       Falsely Convicted and Exonerated: A Community Forum and Reception

          with David Shepard, Nate Walker, & Professor Delores Jones-Brown


Community Forum – 2:00 pm Saturday January 6th, 2007 
at the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
516 Prospect Street, Maplewood



Both Nate Walker and David Shepard spent more than 10 years in New Jersey State Prisons for crimes they did not commit.  Nate and David are African-American men who were accused of sexual assaults against white women.  They were both model prisoners, who served their fellow inmates, while fighting to prove their innocence.  Nate was eventually exonerated through the efforts of Princeton-based Centurion Ministries who arranged the blood tests that proved his innocence.  David filed his own briefs through the federal district courts to challenge his conviction. His victory in the federal courts led to DNA testing which established his innocence. Nate Walker and David Shepard’s cases are featured in Lost Innocence in New Jersey by Sandra Manning and Scott Christianson, which documents wrongful prosecutions and convictions in New Jersey.  

Professor Delores Jones-Brown, Director of the Center on Race, Crime, and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice will also appear and provide commentary on both cases.    

The Community Forum featuring David Shepard, Nate Walker, and other special guests will begin at 2:00pm at the Essex County Ethical Culture Society 516 Prospect Street in Maplewood.  It is free and open to the public. This event from the Martin Luther King Holiday Committee is co-sponsored by the Social Action Committee of the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County.


The Forum will be followed by a reception at the Baker-Johnson home 318 South Ridgewood Road in South Orange. “Falsely Convicted and Exonerated” is a fundraising event for the South Orange/Maplewood Martin Luther King Holiday Committee (MLK-HC), and co-sponsored by the Peoples’ Organization for Progress.  Its purpose is to inform the community about the impact of mass incarceration in the United States while raising funds for the annual Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration. This event promises to be timely, moving and relevant to Dr. King and the civil rights legacy.    A $35.00 donation ($15.00 for students, payable to Martin Luther King Holiday Committee) is requested to attend the reception in honor of David Shepard and Nate Walker.  Contact Matthew Johnson 973 941-6497 for further information. 




Local Peace Department Campaign Group:

A Letter from Tricia Idrobo:

Hi Sue,
      I am thrilled that the Social Action Committee is taking on Dept. of Peace as a project and having the letter writing session for people at Ethical.
      Please pass on this message about the NJ Dept. of Peace campaign. We are starting a NJ Dept. of Peace Campaign list serve through Yahoo Groups. This group will connect people all over NJ who are working on passing the DoP legislation. We expect to discuss strategies, share our successes, give and seek advice, and receive information about the DoP and our activities.
      If anyone is interested in being in this e-mail group please send me your e-mail to me at .
      Perhaps if one or two people on the committee would like to receive the mailings, they can pass on info to the rest of the committee. The national Dept. of Peace campaign also has a monthly conference call the first Tuesday of every month at 9 PM EST for people who prefer that. Perhaps someone would also like to be a liaison there. I have found the calls to be very informative and inspiring. In fact that is how I got involved in the DoP campaign - it is one thing to read about it and another to connect to real human beings who are working on it and who sound so nice and also very organized.
      The phone number and code often changes so it would be good for people who wish to participate to check on their website at for current numbers or sign on to their e-mail list for monthly e-newsletters. The phone number for tonight is (702) 851-3330 They will ask for your code. It is 456123. Betty Levin and I plan to be on the call tonight. If I can be of any help, call me at (973) 994-7018.
                                                                  Thanks, Tricia Idrobo



    Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children...This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.>

                          - The Honorable Dwight D. Eisenhower 1890-1969
                             34th President of the United States
                             Supreme Commander, Integrated European Defense Forces 




To see our objectives and action steps for 2005-06, click here.    For more information, or to get on the mailing list, email us at

We also often support causes and organizations in which our individual members are active. For example, if you want to learn more about Physician Aided Dying, get in touch with Committee member Win Thies, founder and former President of the Hemlock Society of NJ, Inc. (now Compassion and Choices of New Jersey.)    Social Action chair Meredith Sue Willis is a trustee of the South Orange Maplewood Community Coaltion on Race.   E. Betty Levin is active in the New Jersey Association for Spirituality, Ethics, and Religious Values in Counseling and in work for Peace around the Department of Peace legislation.  She and several other members of our Society are also active in New Jersey Peace Action.



Fairness, Freedom and the Dying

On March 22, 2002, the High Court in London ruled that Ms. B, a paralyzed patient being maintained on a machine to help her breathe (a "ventilator") is entitled to kill herself by directing her physicians to disconnect her ventilator. Director of England’s Voluntary Euthanasia Society Deborah Annetts commented: "This is a victory for common sense. The case has confirmed that patient choice must be at the center of all treatment decisions."

Meanwhile, three days prior in Strasbourg, France, Diane Pretty, suffering from motor neurone disease and paralyzed from the neck down, was present on a stretcher at the European Court of Human Rights while her attorney argued that the United Kingdom’s refusal to let her husband help her to die was a violation of her basic civil rights.

Among the simple truths we learned in kindergarten, like "take turns" and "share", was "fairness": that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike.

One might think that certainly we are all treated fairly, all treated equally when it comes to that most personal, private and—to many—religious experience in our lives: the dying process. Alas, not so. Those who are on a life support system, like a ventilator in order to breathe or kidney dialysis, or simply need antibiotics for garden-variety pneumonia or some other infection—such persons are accorded greater freedom than other dying persons.

When a person is terminally ill and in intractable suffering (suffering that cannot be relieved by the highest skill of the pain-control physician) it is reasonable for such dying person to regard life as no longer a benefit but a grave burden. And a burden he would gladly shuck off, if he could.

If such dying person is on a life support system (as was Ms. B) or needs medical treatment in order to survive, has full decision-making capacity and is not treatably depressed it is settled law that the patient may, if wished, as of right direct the removal of the life support system or refuse the essential medical treatment and thus effect death. That is the central lesson of the Karen Ann Quinlan case and the Cruzan case. And this basically was settled law in the U.K., too, even prior to Ms. B’s case. With good pain control care the dying patient in this situation can thus achieve a good death: one that is quick, pain-free and gentle.

In contrast, a patient in all respects similarly situated but not on a life support system or needing further medical treatment (like Diane Pretty) seemingly has not that freedom: the freedom to effect his or her own death. Possibly the patient suffers from a degenerative and inevitably fatal disease, like ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or severe multiple sclerosis. The patient must linger on in increasing suffering. (Only in Oregon under its Death With Dignity Act is it clear that a physician may lawfully even write a prescription for a lethal dose of drugs which the dying patient may later elect to take. And even that modest advance in freedom for the dying is threatened: also last Friday attorneys at the direction of Attorney General John Ashcroft were arguing in Portland, Oregon, U.S. District Court that physicians compassionately responding to their patients under the Oregon law could be jailed for up to 20 years on account of Federal drug laws.)

Understand that we are not here considering those cases in which a patient does not want to die in order to end suffering but merely wants an intrusive life support system removed. In our scenario the patient wants to die and his doctor supports and joins in that intention. (With Ms. B, of course, her physicians resisted taking an action that would kill her. The High Court ruled they did so unlawfully.)

Is there any principled ethical difference on those facts assumed between the three means of achieving a good death: refusal of medical treatment, physician aid-in-dying (PAD), where the physician only writes the lethal prescription, and euthanasia, where the physician gives a lethal injection?

Let’s look at the factors involved. In each case physician and patient both intend that the patient die. In each case the motive of both doctor and patient is to benefit the patient: to end suffering through a hastened dying. In each case doctor and patient in effect act together to achieve that end. And in each case the result is the same: the death of the patient.

It is thus plain that there is no principled ethical difference between refusal of treatment (including removal of a life support), PAD and euthanasia on our facts. But today only if the first be available does the patient have full freedom to control his or her dying. While currently in all states save Oregon PAD is illegal and would subject the physician involved to serious jail time and loss of license. And while euthanasia, probably the most compassionate of all the three means, is illegal throughout America, including Oregon.

The three means are ethically the same, but are treated harshly differently. (Witness the savage treatment meted out to Dr. Jack Kevorkian, now in solitary confinement and facing a further 23 years in jail.) Fairness cries out that we accord to the dying freedom to write the final chapter in the book of their lives and thus to invoke whatever means they wish. It is not the proper place of government to intrude into this most personal, private and religious experience in a person’s life.

As we freed the slaves, freed women, assured freedom for reproductive choices, let us now affirm freedom for the dying by enacting state laws allowing them any of the three means, with reasonable protections against abuse. A good start would be a law much like the Oregon Death With Dignity Act, which has worked flawlessly for four years, but also permitting euthanasia (as in the Netherlands).

This essay was written by Winthrop Thies, former President of The Hemlock Society of New Jersey (the predecessor organization to Compassion and Choices of New Jersey, Inc.).


   See Website of Final Exit at

Terri Seuss's letter to the Editor that appeared in the 6-23-08 issue of the Star Ledger:

Protect the guard

While thousands of people were in the stands to send off 2,800 New Jersey National Guard members to Texas and then to Iraq in September as prison guards, not everyone is jubilant about sending family, friends and neighbors to an illegal, corrupt war. More than 4,000 people have signed petitions urging Gov. Jon Corzine not to send half of the New Jersey National Guard to Iraq and to defederalize the troops.

According to lawyers and legal scholars, the federal authorization that enabled the president to send National Guard units to Iraq has expired. All of the conditions that allowed for this special and limited presidential control have been met or were shown to have been lies. Control of National Guard units should revert to the governors.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg has introduced legislation (SJR55/ AJR89) to defederalize the New Jersey guard. Sen. Nick Scutari and Assemblyman Jack Connors head committees that must move these bills for votes. If people want to support and protect their loved ones in the guard, they must make sure Corzine defedera lizes the guard and/or that defede ralization legislation is passed.

-- Terri Suess, Newark

Terri Suess's Report on Ed Lewinson going to Jail

"Fairness, Freedom, and the Dying" by Win Thies

Star Ledger Article February 19 about Ed Lewinson and School of the Americas



April 1, 2008 is Fossil Fools Day!


Led by the Energy Action Coalition, Canadian  Youth Climate Coalition, and Rising Tide, there will be on April 1 collective
action to turn the tide away from fossil fuel dependence and towards a clean and just energy revolution. The sponsoring organizations say that they have had enough of "fossil fuel tomfoolery" - empty promises and lackluster leadership from our governments and dirty energy companies. We have had enough of coal companies that destroy communities, poison our air, and spew global warming pollution. We are sick of oil and car companies keeping us dangerously addicted to oil. We know that tar sands development in Canada must be stopped. And we will kick every politician out of office who refuses to show bold, political leadership in fighting climate change.  Join us in making April 1 a day the fossil fuel industry never forgets! Sign-up for an action in your community today." For more information, see


Fossil Fools Day ideas include, but are by no means limited to: rallies at gas stations or representative offices,
Critical Mass bike rides, office occupations, Billionaire's for Tar Sands/Coal demonstrations, spank the bank visits, high-powered
projections of solutions on the side of dirty energy factories, Board of Trustees meeting take-overs, hold a clean energy camp at a dirty
energy site, do solar installations, make spoof videos and websites, offer alternative, clean energy bus rides, do some coal mining of your own at a coal company's headquarters...


Honorable Frank Lautenberg
United States Senator
One Gateway Center, 23rd Floor
Newark, New Jersey 07102

Re:     United States forces in Iraq

Dear Senator Lautenberg:

       I listened to President Bush’s State of the Union address and to Senator
James Webb’s response.  Senator Webb spoke for me and millions of Americans
when he said that our troops should be removed from combat in Iraq and
brought home in an orderly manner.  I do not think that the non-binding
resolution which states that the increase in forces in Iraq is not in our
national interest is enough.  Vice President Cheney has said already that
President Bush will ignore the resolution.
       You and other members of the Senate must do more to compel President Bush
to change direction in Iraq.  It is not enough to express the opinion of a
majority of the House.
       The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of
2002, Public Law 107-243, authorizes the President to “use the Armed Forces
of the United States ... in order to –
               (1) defend the national security of the United States against the
continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
               (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions
regarding Iraq.”
The various “Whereas” clauses in the Joint Resolution make clear that the
dangers referred to related to Iraq’s wars of aggression against it
neighbors, its failure to abide by the U.N. Resolutions relating to the
cease fire in the Gulf War, its weapons programs to possess and develop a
significant chemical and biological weapons capability and to develop a
nuclear weapons capability, its brutal repression of its civilian population
and its activities in supporting and harboring terrorists organization.
       None of these reasons now exist.  There is no continuing threat posed by
Iraq.  Saddam Hussein has been tried, convicted and executed.  The various
other officials responsible for the genocide in Kurdistan and other crimes
against humanity are now on trial for their crimes.  Iraq has a
democratically elected government and a constitution approved by its people
in a referendum.  Iraq no longer has chemical, biological or nuclear
weapons.  Iraq may now be in the middle of a civil war, of ethic cleansing
and of other internal strife, but none of these things were or are
encompassed by the Iraq Resolution of 2002.  If President Bush wants to use
the Armed Forces of the United States to deal with these problems he must
seek authorization from Congress.
       I urge you to introduce and gain support for a joint resolution stating
that the President is no longer authorised to use the Armed Forces of the
Untied States in Iraq and requiring him to remove them from Iraq with all
deliberate speed..
       Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution authorizes Congress, not the
President: “To declare was ....; To raise and support Armies ...; To make
Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and navel Forces ...”
Congress clearly has the power to revoke the Iraq Resolution of 2002.
Congress has the power to limit its funding for the Armed Forces to
defensive measures in Iraq and to those actions necessary for an orderly
removal of Forces from Iraq.
       President Bush will continue to spend recklessly the lives of our service
men and women because he cannot admit to a mistake.  It is your duty as an
elected representative of the people to make sure that President Bush’s
pride and arrogance to not further injure our country and its Armed Forces.

                                               Very truly,

                                               William E. Graves
Dear Friends: 
In the Q & A following Leader Boe Meyerson's Mar. 4, 2007 talk on the current Iraq situation and how we might ethically get out of it, I questioned her broad assertion that "regime change" not effected through the UN is always unethical.
There is a weakness in over-generalizing from specific difficult situations.  We fought the Cold War, including the Korean War (successfully, but at great cost) on account of "the lesson of Munich".  Such supposed "lesson" also informed our involvement in Viet Nam.  Then the supposed "lesson" of Viet Nam affected our policy in later years.  (While we ignored success against insurgencies by the British in Malaya, the Philippines against the Huks, the French in Algeria (although they eventually left.).  And our own success in putting down the Philippine insurgency under Aguinaldo a century ago, at the cost, I remind you, of some 4,300 Americans slain.
Some took my comments as a defense of the current Bush administration.  Not so.  They were merely intended as a corrective to laying down a dubious general ethical rule.
Yes, as an ideal matter the world community would end the horrors of a tyrannical regime through UN action.  Alas, the very imperfect instrument that is the UN (with egregious misrepresentation and the veto, etc.) fairly precludes this in many cases--while horrific conditions crying out for immediate relief yet continue.  I point to Darfur today.  (And think back to the horros of Idi Amin and Pol Pot.)  Met with UN ineffectuality the straightforward--and ethical--move would be for a few good nations to send in an allied force to replace the current lawless Sudanese regime.  (Alas, on account of the supposed "lesson of Iraq" we and like minded nations will not do that.)
That regime change is fully licit when a government be sufficiently tyrannical is well established.  Thoughout history the right of an oppressed people to replace a tyrant (by assassination or otherwise) has long and repeatedly been affirmed.  Hence the general rejoicing at the fall of a tyrant, with the cry: "Sic semper tyrannis!"
If it be settled that an oppressed people may ethically so act, what does it matter that the means to effect an ethical act come from external forces?  A few top German officers came close to slaying Hitler in the (alas) failed assassination attempt of July 20, 1944.  The War dragged on for near another year, with millions more slain, maimed, raped, rendered homeless, etc.  Had the effort to kill Hitler been mounted by a band of  Allied secret agents would the act have been any less ethical?
Yes, immoral governments on occasion may use the rubric "legitimate regime change" as a cover for imperialist aggression.  But that a principle may be misued does not render it illegitimate.  We recall the settled maxim "Abusus non tollit usum": "the abuse of something does not bar its proper use."
Accordingly, it is error to lay down a general rule that regime change not effected through the UN is always unethical.
Plainly, I invite dialogue (from Boe and others) on this.
Sincerely, Winthrop Drake Thies



Here are places to find information about presidential candidates and their health care positions:

For a quick summary, thanks go Barry Zack, click here.

Hillary Clinton:
John Edwards:
Rudy Guliani:
Mike Huckabee:
Dennis Kucinich:
John McCain:
Barack Obama:
Mitt Romney:


July summary of candidate positions from the NYTimes:

Here are more good health care materials to read:





The Season of Nonviolence-- Jan 30 through April 4


(for more information, go to and/or get in touch with Tricia Idrobo at .

The 11th annual Season for Nonviolence has now officially begun, starting on Jan. 30 which is the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's death, to April 4 which is the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death. The New Jersey Department of Piece initiative is giving a challenge for the Season of Nonviolence--that everyon consider doing at least one action per month to move the Department of Peace Campaign forward!

The monthly action could be as basic as reading the bill (H.R. 808) or becoming familiar with the helpful resources on the DoP website (   It could be as easy as passing on a DoP brochure or e-newsletter to friends and acquaintances. Other actions could be phoning or writing your member of Congress, arranging to have a DoP speaker at a group, or hosting a DoP get-together at your house.

Since collective efforts bring increased results, please consider joining the DoP team in your area and working with others to plan and carry out the most effective ways to promote the campaign. We will send opportunities for involvement throughout the Season of Nonviolence.

If everyone on this list serve would make this commitment we could accomplish so much. Please let us know what you are doing!


The Season for is a national 64-day educational, media, and grassroots campaign dedicated to demonstrating that nonviolence is a powerful way to heal, transform, and empower our lives and our communities. Inspired by the 50th and 30th memorial anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this international event honors their vision for an empowered, nonviolent world.




AEU Ethical Action Archives

Ethical Action
September 2007 Ethical Action Report
July 2007 Ethical Action Report


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