Channeling Moral Outrage Into Action To End Domestic Violence

If you’ve turned on the television or even glanced at a newspaper over the past several weeks, you’ve likely seen coverage of Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens running back who punched his then-fiancée Janay in an elevator. The renewed conversation about Rice’s actions and about the NFL’s reaction is a disheartening, if timely introduction to […]

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military airplane bombers flying over desert

Just What is ISIS, and Why Should We Care?

Like many self-styled foreign policy wonks, I’ve found myself incredibly disturbed by the extremist group known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. There’s no shortage of news these days on ISIS, from what we should call them to what life is like under ISIS control to why the U.S. should attack them […]

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High Holidays

Repentance and Forgiveness More Than One Day a Year

Our tradition teaches us that on Rosh Hashanah, each person is judged based on their actions of the past year and on Yom Kippur, after an opportunity to reflect and repent, that judgment is sealed for the next year. Therefore, during the High Holiday season, Jews reflect on the year that has passed, confess our […]

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Women Praying with Torah at Western Wall

Hiddush’s Newest Report Shows Overwhelming Support for Freedom of Expression

Months after the Jewish Federations of North America launched a new initiative, iREP, to promote freedom of expression and marriage in Israel, a new report reveals that over two-thirds of Israeli Jews support Israel-diaspora partnerships like iREP that advocate for religious freedom of marriage, or civil marriage.

The report by Hiddush, an Israeli organization for religious freedom and equality, found that 67% of Israeli Jews, and 74% of non-ultra-Orthodox Jews support Israeli-diaspora efforts for freedom of marriage. These high levels of support mirror Israeli Jews’ overwhelming support of civil marriage, which has reached the highest level in the history of Hiddush’s Religion and State Index. The support is widespread, including a majority of Jews from all religious groups except Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox.

Other statistics from the Index include:

  • 84 percent of Israeli Jews support freedom of religion and conscience, up slightly from 83% in 2013.
  • Support for separation of religion and state has reached its highest recorded level at 61%, up slightly from 60% in 2013 and 56% in 2012.
  • A majority of Israeli Jews (51%) believe that every political party, secular, Israeli-Arab, and ultra-Orthodox, should be required to have female Members of Knesset.

Rabbi Uri Regev, President of Hiddush and founding Director of the Israeli Religious Action Center (IRAC), and Stanley Gold, Hiddush’s US Chairman, said about the report:

This study strongly reaffirms that supporting efforts for freedom of religion in Israel is one of the most pro-Israel activities that world Jewry can take part in. The time is now for all of us to help Israel fully embrace these values!”

You can access the full Religion and State Index on the Hiddush website or here.

Bitten by the Anti-Malaria Bug

One of the best parts about my job as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant is constantly meeting people who are passionate advocates for the causes they believe in. Not only do these interactions reinvigorate my optimism for success on the issues I work on, but they also inspire me to learn and engage in new issues too. I had one such experience over the last two days. I showed up to the Nothing But Nets (NBN) Champion Summit on Sunday morning as part of the RAC team working with our Nothing But Nets partnership, seeing my participation in the conference as one of the aspects and responsibilities of  our work on this important issue. But Monday afternoon, I left the Hill as an NBN Champion and advocate personally engaged and invested in the fight against malaria. Read more…

Yes on Question 4 in Massachusetts; earned sick time now

Double Booked: No One Should Have to Choose Between A Healthy Family and A Job

In this season of renewal, Jews reflect on the year past and look forward to a 5775, a year that brings new opportunity. Since the launch of Double Booked this past January, we have identified some of the challenges that working families face today and discussed a wide variety of cultural, social, and policy solutions. The Jewish new year seems a fitting time to reveal the next phase of our Double Booked initiative, which will focus on working with our interfaith partners to lift up good internal employment policies as well as to engage our denominations and houses of worship in federal, state, and local initiatives to pass much-needed policies to support the modern American family.

One such policy is ensuring paid sick days. We are proud to report that the Union for Reform Judaism (which the RAC is part of) offers its employees a generous paid sick days policy. The Union demonstrated its strong support again for these policies in a new resolution that was passed at our 2013 Biennial.

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Anticipating Enrollment Season, New Statistics on the ACA

In the battle over the efficacy of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, numbers are key for measuring the successes and failures of health care reform. From the number of Americans with insurance to the to the average cost of health care a year, these numbers will be used by both supporters and opponents of recent health care reforms to both praise and criticize the impact of Obamacare.  This month the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released important statistics that both paint a picture of health care enrollment in the United States and serve as a baseline for judging the impact of the Affordable Care Act in the years to come.  While the increase in insurance coverage is a positive sign, the racial disparities illustrated by these statistics offer an important reason as to why we must fight to expand coverage and accessibility for all.

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A family enjoys a meal around a table. The US Department of Agriculture has just released a report demonstrating that SNAP (formerly food stamps) can play a major role in fighting poverty, especially among children.

When You Fast For More Than 25 Hours

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish year, we fast as an opportunity to reflect on the year past and turn to the future. The Torah instructs the Jewish people that “the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: You shall practice self-denial.”(Leviticus 23:27). The fast begins with the Kol Nidre evening service through the shofar’s final Tekiah Gedolah blast at the close of the Yom Kippur afternoon service. This is one way by which Jews around the world look inward and focus on t’shuvah (repentance) and t’fillah (prayer).

Yet, there are many in this country who do not have the luxury of being able to choose when they will or will not choose to eat. 46.2 million Americans live in poverty and 47 million Americans, or 15% of the population, receive SNAP benefits.According to 2013 data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 49 million Americans lived in a household that faced difficulty affording enough food in 2013. 15.8 million children struggled with food insecurity issues in the past year. Additionally, 50% of U.S children will receive SNAP benefits at some point before they reach the age of 20. Hunger is still taking place on a massive scale, both in the United States and around the world.

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Shul in Baltimore where shooting occurred

Incidence of anti-Semitism in Baltimore over Rosh Hashanah

As we begin the new Jewish year, these Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) are a time for us to reflect on the year that was and renew our commitments to tzedakah (justice) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). We also mark these days by heading to our synagogues to pray as a community, which is why it was even more disheartening to hear about a possible hate crime at a synagogue in Baltimore over Rosh Hashanah. According to reports, a man yelled out in front of a synagogue and shot a BB gun in the vicinity of the building.

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Green Tishrei Challenge: BYO Grocery Bags

Happy New Year and welcome to the Jewish month of Tishrei! The Jewish new year is a time for rededication and reflection, looking back on what we’ve done right in the past year and what we would like to do better in the year ahead.

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medical symbol, stethoscope, white lab coat

Abortion Access: A Matter of Individual Rights and Health Care

On Sunday, September 28 we commemorated the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, encouraging individuals, organizations and governments to take steps to ensure women’s health care access around the world.

Despite seemingly constant attacks on women’s reproductive rights in the United States, the alarming reality is that our laws allow safe and legal access compared to those of other countries around the world. In 138 countries, restrictions on abortion extend beyond the methods by which a woman may fund her procedure, with governments regulating the reasons for which a woman is or is not allowed to terminate her pregnancy. In its annual survey of abortion restrictions across the globe, the Center for Reproductive Rights categorizes these restrictions in three ways: Read more…