Mazal Tov to Rabbi Saperstein

As you may have heard, the United States Senate voted to confirm Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center to the post of United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the State Department. We are incredibly proud of the legacy Rabbi Saperstein has built at the Religious Action Center over these last […]

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Eight Hanukkah Wishes For Our Environment

This year, as Hanukkah began, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference of parties in Lima, Peru wrapped up two weeks of international negotiations with guidelines for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to the present and immanent facts of climate disruption for populations around the globe. The conference in Lima is a […]

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Budget documents

A Faithful CRomnibus

At the end of the 113th Congress, both the Senate and the House of Representatives voted to fund the federal government through the end of September 30, 2015, or to the end of the 2015 fiscal year. The passage of this bill avoided a government shut down by funding the federal government – except for […]

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Beth Shalom Fredricksburg VA

L’Taken Participant Speaks Out for Voting Rights

This past weekend at L’Taken, Ben from Beth Sholom Temple in Fredericksburg, Virginia spoke to Senator Mark Warner’s staff about voting rights. Since the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, it has become harder for many minority and vulnerable populations to obtain fair access […]

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lighting candles in a menorah

Light a Candle for Understanding

This time of year, it’s hard not to be drawn into conversations about the place of religious expression in public life. Christmas decorations abound, and religious minorities play up the celebration of a winter holiday to stake out a place in their communities. There is always a conversation about how important Hanukkah is in the Jewish tradition, probably a result of the effort I described to feel represented in a community or society where there is a widely-celebrated religious holiday.

Often, communities, local governments – particularly schools – also struggle with this question of representing different religions. The December Dilemma, as it is often called, describes the often uncomfortable conversation parents, students and other community members have to have about how not to make people feel alienated in their community.

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URJ Ruderman Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center Now Live

Jewish tradition teaches us that all human beings are created in the divine image, b’tzelem Elohim (Genesis 1:27), teaching us that people of all abilities are deserving of the same opportunities and respect. The Reform Movement has a long history of working to remove barriers to the full inclusion and participation of people with disabilities, fulfilling the commandment in Leviticus 19:14 that “you shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind.” This week the Union for Reform Judaism and the Ruderman Family Foundation launched the URJ Ruderman Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center in order to further our work on disability inclusion.

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The author's family

Celebrating What Really Matters in December

I get asked a lot if I’m “half.” Often, people are referring to my mixed Caucasian and Asian American heritage, their curiosity sparked by my Korean last name on my Jewish business card or by whatever other seeming tip arises on a given day. Other times, particularly as the holidays overlap in December and my family brings out our menorah alongside our Christmas tree, people ask whether I’m “half Jewish,” assuming my dual holiday celebration must mean some part of me is not Jewish. They couldn’t be more wrong. Read more…

ABLE Act’s Senate Passage a Moral Victory for People with Disabilities

In response to Senate passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

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RAC LA Jonathan Edelman holds a candle at the faiths vigil

Remembering Newtown, Two Years and Too Many More Losses Due to Gun Violence

When I think back to December 14, 2012, I remember that it should have been a celebratory day for me. I had my two last final exams for the semester—logic and operations management—and quickly said goodbye to my friends as I drove from college back home. It had been a busy semester, and an even busier final exam season, but I had found the self-discipline to devote a lot of time to study for these finals. When I turned in my exams, I felt both proud of my work in preparing myself and excited to take a break from studying for a while. Packing my dorm room, I felt ecstatic—I felt that I could finally put a tough semester behind me and spend some much-needed time with my parents. Read more…

1 in 4 are affected by mental illness

Mental Health Continues to be a Priority Two Years After Sandy Hook

Sunday  marked the two-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, where a gunman murdered twenty children and six educators at Sandy Hook elementary school. Leading up to the two-year anniversary, agencies were working to set up a support system for the next 12 to 15 years for people impacted by the shooting, with mental health officials reporting many people reporting “substance abuse, relationship troubles, disorganization, depression, overthinking or inability to sleep” following the shooting. Thankfully, tragedies like the Sandy Hook shooting don’t happen very often; unfortunately, however, mental illness is experienced by millions every year.

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sunrise over DC monuments

Interpreting Our Dreams and Addressing the Problems of Our Nation

In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Mikeitz, Joseph is brought out of jail in Egypt to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Pharaoh’s had two dreams: one showing seven fat cows and then seven thin cows; and the other depicted seven healthy ears of corn followed by seven thin ears of corn. Deeply troubled by the dreams, he calls all the wise men in the land in an attempt to interpret the dreams, but finds that only Joseph can help (Genesis 41:23). Read more…

The Hanukkah Model of Sustainability

By Rabbi Kevin M. Kleinman

Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights, and yet it takes place during the darkest time of the year. The Hanukkah story told in the Babylonian Talmud and repeated from generation to generation centers on the great miracle of light. The oil used in the menorah to rededicate the Temple after the Maccabbees’ victory was supposed to last for only one night, but instead it lasted for eight nights.  I’ll rephrase it this way: one day’s worth of oil provided eight days of light. Halleluyah!  It was a miracle indeed. A miracle of conservation. Who knew that Hanukkah could provide us with a model of sustainability?  Move over Tu B’shvat, Hanukkah is joining you on the climate justice train.

Jewish environmental leaders have been using this teaching about Hanukkah for several years to encourage households to switch from incandescent to compact florescent light bulbs during Hanukkah. RAC legislative assistant Liya Rechtman wrote about this connection on this blog a few weeks ago. Looking for a last minute holiday gift? How about giving the gift of reducing carbon emissions, in the form of a light bulb?

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