This was first posted on The New York Jewish Week’s blog, The New Normal, on June 19, 2013. Our sage, Hillel, asks, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” (Ethics of the Fathers 1:14) [...]Read more
Over the last week I and my colleagues have brought you some of the highlights from the debate on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 in the House. For my final post on the matter (for now) I want to talk about an issue that has long been pillar of the Reform [...]Read more
In the summer of 2005, I interned at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. That summer was a particularly difficult one for us, as it felt that we in the gun violence prevention community struggled with one defeat after another. At the time, the most difficult loss of all was the dissolution of the [...]Read more
I have a rule about internet videos. I realize that a lot of people (maybe you) can spend hours watching them, but they’re just not my thing So for me to actually sit down and watch a three minute video on YouTube takes a lot – three different people recommending it to me, in fact. [...]Read more
If there’s any month when the eyes of the country are on the judicial system, it’s June. This is the month when the Supreme Court’s term ends, and therefore is when a lot of the year’s big decisions come down. This year is no exception – we have all been waiting with baited breath for the Court to release its decisions on the landmark cases of the year: the future of affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the legality of gay marriage in Windsor v. the United States and Hollingsworth v. Perry and the validity of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder.
Last week I discussed how the section of the Torah we find ourselves in at this time of year deals with the young Israelite nation growing into a military power. This evolution continues in this week’s parsha when an enemy king, Balak, sends a Balaam – a sort of religious leader cum warrior – to curse the Israelite camp. And again this week, this Torah portion resonates with some of the current debate in Congress about the National Defense Authorization Act.
In the Bible, stories of wars are inextricably linked with religion. In addition to these battles merely being recorded in our sacred literature, the priests were actively involved with the war effort. Before the Israelite army could engage in warfare, the priests had to read the rules of what was ethically permitted in warfare and what was prohibited to those assembled to fight. These rules, frequently referred to as “just war theory,” primarily pertain to the treatment of enemy combatants. Today, however, we must look just as closely at how we treat our own soldiers. As the National Defense Reauthorization Act (NDAA) is being debated on the House floor, it is especially pertinent that we consider the conditions of our own military, and specifically their right to religious freedom.
The thirty Machon Kaplan participants have arrived and it’s officially summer at the RAC. Thanks to the infusion of energy from our MK interns, Lizzie Stein and Sam Stone, along with summer rabbinic interns Benj Fried and Stephen Morris, the office is even buzz-ier than usual. Thursday night was our annual “Meet S’more Interns” event (yup – we were making smores in the RAC lobby), welcoming Jewish interns throughout the city to the RAC for some informal schmoozing – and a chance to be swabbed into the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry.
School is out, the weather is hot and mosquitoes are buzzing! This can only mean one thing: Reform Jewish youth across North America are in the final countdown to the opening day of summer camp! As someone who grew up going to camp and then spent many college summers working at Jewish summer camps, each year at this time I get a bit reminiscent of that countdown, of days with friends that seem to last forever, and even of the mosquito bites!
That’s why, as the Program Coordinator at the Religious Action Center, I was excited to work with URJ camps to write and distribute a summer camp program to engage the youth of our Movement with Nothing But Nets. Nothing But Nets, a global, grassroots campaign, raises awareness and funding to fight malaria in Africa. Working on this partnership and writing these camp programs has surely given me a whole new prospective on the notorious mosquito bites I remember getting each summer at camp.
In 1972, Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath sent me to Florida to organize Jewish students protesting the Vietnam War at the 1972 Republican Convention in Miami.
In 1990, my wife, my father and I travelled through China just a few months before Tiananmen Square.
In both situations, the moral passion and democratic hopes and aspirations of the young people we encountered were palpable. Infused with the belief that by using non-violent methods they could transform their lives, their nation, their world for the better, they set about with courage and confidence to change their future.
That was exactly the feeling I had as I spent two lengthy visits with the protestors in Gezi Park in the Taksim area of Istanbul over the past few days. There is something special happening in Gezi Park – and it is inspiring.
This article by Bob Feferman originally appeared in the Forward on Friday, June 14, 2013.
As Iran approaches another fraudulent presidential election on June 14, it is important to remember the 2009 protests in Iran over the results of the rigged election. The heart-wrenching picture of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman who was shot dead by regime thugs, was not an isolated event. Neda’s tragic death should serve as a call for us to take action, both for the sake of the people of Iran and the cause of peace.
According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur’s March 2013 report on human rights in Iran , “There continues to be widespread systemic and systematic violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
New Yorkers, the time is now to lift up your voices together and call your state Senator and tell them that you support the New York Women’s Equality Act. Along with others across the state, tell the state Senate that you demand strengthened policies to support women as equal members of society as consistent with our American and Jewish values.
Dial 1-888-897-0174 or text “WEA” or “womensequality” to 877-877 to hear key points and automatically connect to your state Senator.
Today, women in New York face challenges that can prevent them from being contributing fully to society. Women are victims of wage discrimination in the workplace, face restricted access to reproductive health care services, endure family status and pregnancy discrimination and are more likely to be victims of human trafficking.
Call your state Senator and urge them to support the Women’s Equality Act that includes provisions to: Read more…