I’m Moving

I am moving apartments this week.  It’s a tough and emotional process, but like everyone else coping with these kind of challenges these days, how can you complain?  Proportionality has become a fact of life in Israel, just like the sirens and the terrible images from southern Israel and Gaza.  I spent this Shabbat in […]

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Choosing Life over the Death Penalty  

Growing up as a Reform Jew in a liberal, socially active environment in Southern California, I always felt that capital punishment and the death penalty were morally wrong and never the right response to crime. Then, as a Reform Jew in the liberal, socially active environment of Boston University, I was faced with a moral […]

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Defend Women's Reproductive Rights

Ensuring Access to Abortion in America

On June 12, the governor of Louisiana signed a bill that will close three of the state’s five abortion facilities. Several days later, the only medical provider offering abortion care in northern Alabama shut down. And by September, Texas is expected to have only six abortion clinics. In 2011, that number was 44. Within certain […]

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The URJ Tent

Updates for Community Social Action

This past month has been a difficult one. The news of the three Israeli boys found murdered, the retribution killing of a Palestinian teenager, and then the flare up of fighting have given us all heavy hearts. If you haven’t already, please take a minute to learn more about the Stop the Sirens campaign, which the Reform Movement has joined as part of a global Jewish response to the fighting.

July also marks the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, and the coming year will also mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. These two pieces of legislation were crafted by Jewish and African-American advocates in the RAC’s historic conference room, and we should all be proud of that history. If your congregation is interested in commemorating these events, visit our Shabbat Tzedek pageand be sure tocheck out the Institute for Southern Jewish Life’s Freedom Summer Service.Finally,I hope you’ll join the RAC on Yammer! Yammer and the “Tent” are a message board and resource bank system. Once you’ve signed up, be sure to subscribe to the Social Action group, where you’ll be able to learn from and share with hundreds of other social activists!

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Update on Iranian Nuclear Negotiations

This past Sunday, July 20th, marked the original deadline set by the P5+1 countries (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France, plus Germany) and Iran to reach an agreement after months of nuclear negotiations in Geneva.  As many people, including politicians, journalists, and faith leaders, predicted, the countries agreed to extend the negotiations for an additional six months.  (This extension comes seven months after P5+1 and Iran reached an interim agreement in late November.  That agreement, which was implemented beginning on January 20, resulted in a roll back of a few sanctions against Iran in exchange for limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, including halting production at Arak, Iran’s heavy-water reactor.) Read more…

Ratifying the Disabilities Treaty: Bringing the Shameful Wall of Exclusion Down

This Saturday, July 26th, will mark the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed in to law by President George H.W. Bush.  President Bush ended his remarks that day by saying: “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”  He was, of course, alluding to another wall that had only recently fallen—the Berlin Wall.  I was born a few months after both those historical events took place and I am often struck that at twenty-three years old, my friends and I are the first group of Americans to grow up in an America where it is illegal to discriminate against a person with a disability.   Read more…

An Update on “Stop the Sirens”

This blog originally appeared at ReformJudaism.org on July 20, 2014.

As you know, the conflict in Gaza has intensified. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Israeli soldiers killed in action, with our brothers and sisters in Israeli, and with all who are in danger.

When the conflict began, the Reform Movement made a decision to join Stop the Sirens, a community-wide campaign, coordinated by Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA), to provide relief and support to the most heavily impacted Israeli communities. We did this rather than creating our own campaign to support our Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) congregations and the vital work the IMPJ itself is doing because we thought it was important to show support for the larger communal effort.

The campaign has already allocated $8 million for “respite and relief.”

ARZA Chair Rabbi Bennett Miller is doing a great job representing our Movement on the JFNA Allocations Committee, assuring that the allocation reflect Reform Jewish values as well as Reform Movement interests.

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The Moral Imperative of Non-Discrimination

Amidst the suffering and conflict occurring in too many parts of the world, the White House delivered good news and something to celebrate today.  Rabbi David Saperstein and I were privileged to be in the East Room of the White House this morning to watch President Obama sign an Executive Order prohibiting all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against LGBT employees and adding gender identity to federal government’s current prohibition of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Read more…

Jewish Action for Immigration

Immigration: A Jewish Perspective

Thousands of years ago the Jewish people were expelled from the land of Israel into the Diaspora. They remained there until 1948 when the Jewish people finally achieved the dream of a homeland when the State of Israel was born. The Jewish people have never been strangers to exile or xenophobia. Having had this unique background and history enables Jews to examine the issue of immigration reform through a fresh perspective, which will hopefully add some common sense to the chaos with which this issue has been associated in recent years. The immigrants who come to the U.S. are often exploited for cheap labor while also being robbed of any semblance of human dignity and human rights. In the Bible, Moses flees from Egypt after slaying one of the Egyptians, eventually wedding Zipporah who bears him a son, Gershom. Translated into English, Gershom means the sojourner and the Bible exclaims that Moses named his son thus because “I have been a stranger in a strange land.” Read more…

Double Booked: Inspired by White House summit, Rabbi Sernovitz calls for change

As an attendee, thanks to the RAC, of the White House Summit on Working Families, I was honored to be interviewed by our local Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Voice of South Jersey. The article presents the opportunity we have to influence the powers to be in our individual committees to  think differently about  the way families function today. I hope that by reading this article, you too are inspired to make a difference in your own community. L’Shalom, Rabbi Larry Sernovitz.

This piece originally appeared on July 9, 2014 at Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey.

By Jane Jacova Field

For Temple Emanuel Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, nearly every day is a balancing act between taking care of his congregants’ needs and carving out time with his wife and two young children.

And as hard as that is, he knows that countless American workers with children do not have the same flexibility he has to make it home for family dinners most nights and even to sing the nighttime Shema with five year old Sammy by telephone when work prevents him from being at his son’s bedside.

Outspoken in his support for family-friendly workplace policies, Sernovitz’s participation in the recent White House Summit on Working Families was both inspiring and challenging.

While sobered by the not surprising news that America is dead last among developed nations in terms of familyfriendly policies, he left empowered to work to make the change that needs to happen, he said.

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Reform Jewish Leader Praises Administration’s Plan to Bar LGBT Discrimination in Federal Contracts

In response to reports that the administration will ban discrimination by federal contractors against LGBT workers, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center, issued the following statement:

“We are elated by the reports of the President’s decision today to sign two executive orders, extending workplace protection to LGBT employees of federal contractors and to transgender employees of the federal government. We commend President Obama for these important steps affirming that the government should not fund discrimination through its contracts.  These orders represent a significant step in ensuring equal opportunity in the workplace. They expand the Administration’s consistently robust efforts to protect the fundamental rights of LGBT people (as it has done through key steps such as its support for marriage equality and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act). According to the Williams Institute, this executive order would protect 14 million more workers whose employers or states do not already uphold non-discrimination policies. Moreover, this order will demonstrate to Congress that workplace protection for LGBT employees is good for individuals and good for business. Read more…