Forward Thinking

Hitting The Road for 'Tax Fairness'

By Blair Thornburgh

  • Print
  • Share Share
ellie axe

While some efforts to get younger Americans involved in the political process may be fretting over the so-called “enthusiasm gap” between four years ago and today, Alan Van Capelle, isn’t worried. And he’s got the bus tour to prove it.

“There’s no gap in the community to make the world better,” Van Capelle said at a reception for the “If I Were A Rich Man Tour,” on Thursday. “We don’t sit on the sidelines.”

The “If I Were A Rich Man Tour” is a project of Bend the Arc, a liberal Jewish group that advocates for domestic social justice. The trip began on August 22 and took a diverse group of Jewish activists on the road to raise awareness about “tax fairness” in congressional districts around the country, to “stop talking about tikkun olam and start doing,” according to Van Capelle.

Doing, in this case, means asking some of the wealthiest members of Congress from both parties why they continue to support Bush-era tax cuts for those earning over $250,000 a year. It also means starting conversations with ordinary people about why they feel it’s important to pay their “fair share” of taxes.

Rabbi Margie Klein, a tour participant from Boston, said traveling and hearing stories from across America was what drew her to the project. She also felt a connection to her Jewish faith. “As a Jew, I’ve been taught that I am connected and responsible for everyone else,” she said.

“It’s empowering and encouraging,” to hear stories from across the country, said Ellie Axe, also of Boston and the project’s team leader. “It’s thrilling to fight for what is critical.” And while on the road, “the adrenaline doesn’t stop.”

The reception in Charlotte was the final stop on the two-week tour, which also included stops in California, Texas, Ohio, and a visit to the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Yet despite their liberal politics, all participants agreed the reception for the tour had been overwhelmingly positive, in blue states and red.

Yitz Jordan, a participant and hip-hop artist from Los Angeles who performs as Y-Love, said that sticking out actually did the group a favor.

“Here comes this multiracial, gender variant guy with a purse,” he said of himself. “Before we’re even identified as Jewish, we’re already motley. But it only brought positivity. It was a conversation starter. The ice was broken.”

Besides approaching people to talk personally, the group also made signs (“Honk if you love tax fairness!”) and a wall for others to sign with their reasons for paying their “fair share” of taxes.

Van Capelle sees the project as an important manifestation of Bend the Arc’s mission, which he has called “unapologetically progressive but also smartly pragmatic”. The group, which takes its name from a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., focuses on domestic issues to change the perception that Jewish Americans are one-issue (i.e., Israel-centric) voters. Other campaigns include the “613 pledge,” a push to get 613 wealthy American Jews to publicly call for higher tax rates on their income bracket.

For Los Angeles film producer, DJ and “artivist” Tera Greene, being on the tour was a chance to have cross-cultural and cross-ideological discussions. “I spoke with a Republican guy in one town, and by the end, he was thanking me for the conversation,” he said. “People will pour out.”

The bus tour’s “unusual” model was no coincidence, either. Klein, who called herself a proponent of “faith-based civil rights,” called the tour a chance to emulate civil rights activists like Rep. John Lewis. “I got to meet my hero,” she said of Lewis, “and tell him ‘I am trying to follow in your footsteps.’”

Aaron Brickman of Oakland, Calif., said he came to the tour excited for “an opportunity to make Judaism more progressive,” and even the tattoo around his arm was a call for tikkun olam. The Yiddish, he says, reads “For a more beautiful and better world.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: tax reform, alan van capelle, bend the arc, if i were a rich man

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.