February 2014 marked the sixth annual Jewish Disability Awareness Month. Together we use this month to break down physical, communication, and attitudinal barriers, educate our communities on what accessibility and inclusion really mean, and reach out to Jews with disabilities. The Reform Movement marked the month in several ways.Read more
Today is the Jewish Community Day of Action for Health Care Coverage—and Reform Jews across the country, including at the RAC, NFTY, WRJ and more are taking part. The goal of the Jewish Community Day of Action is to educate both American Jews and the public at large about their coverage options on the new […]Read more
Following the Guttmacher Institute’s report earlier this year indicating that more restrictive anti-choice bills were passed in the states between 2011-2013 (205 laws, to be exact) than the preceding ten years (189 laws), our eyes turned to 2014 with hope that the momentum would slow and such laws would cease to be considered. Unfortunately, 2014 […]Read more
In September of 2010, there was an onslaught of media coverage reporting the suicides of several LGBT teenagers who took their own lives as a result of severe bullying. These individuals felt no hope for or sense of a future. As a result of these tragic incidences, columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller […]Read more
This post originally appeared at WRJblog. This Shabbat, as we slow down, disconnect and enjoy the day of rest with family and friends, we also have the opportunity to spend some time to reflect on the status of women at home and abroad. International Women’s Day (IWD) has been celebrated on March 8th for nearly […]Read more
It seems like the High Holy Days were just upon us, so it’s hard to believe that this week marks the beginning of our official recruitment for Yom Kippur Gift of Life drives this year. In our pilot last year, we set out to recruit 15 congregations to run drives on Yom Kippur. The project held many uncertainties; no one was sure if congregations or rabbis would buy into this project, or if the connection between Yom Kippur themes and saving a life would be self-evident. It turned out that many rabbis and congregations loved the project, and many were able to run with the program, with their imagination being the only limit on how to incorporate this mitzvah into the holiest day of the year. In the end, 35 congregations registered over 3,000 people on Yom Kippur, and just this week we learned of our first match! It hasn’t been 6 months and lives are already being saved.
This year, we are taking the successes and lessons learned last year to make this Yom Kippur even more meaningful and impactful. Our goal is to recruit 75 congregations across the US to participate in this year’s Yom Kippur drives. We hope to add thousands more people into the registry, providing matches to countless patients who are in need of a second chance at life. I know many of you may be thinking that your congregation is an exception, and couldn’t possibly handle such an endeavor on an already logistically-challenging day, but the congregations that participated last year can attest that offering cheek swabbing to a save life on the holiest day of the year made the day even more special and served as a great catalyst to bring their community together. One congregation in Pennsylvania reported that participating in this project last year allowed them to engage over 10% of their entire membership at a single time.
The RAC and Gift of Life provide support to your congregation every step of the way, with a toolkit, sample emails and social media posts, press releases, and more. We even provide all the training and supplies you will need to succeed on your drive day. We are hosting informational webinars later in the spring to cover, in detail, how the program works, why this is right for all congregations – big and small – and hear success stories from our pilot project last year.
Building on the expansion of school meals programs, First Lady Michelle Obama announced new school wellness plans and food marketing regulations for our nation’s schools. Beyond the First Lady’s announcement, it’s been a busy week in the fight to end child obesity–a new report found a surprising 43% decline in obesity among 2-5 year old children in America over the last eight years. Read more…
“We understand that hunger is a huge issue that cannot be fixed easily. It is a multi-faceted problem and millions of Americans across the country struggle with every day. That is why we want to start small, and advocate for immediate change in New York.”—A NFTY-NAR teen advocating for anti-hunger programs.
Not enough people take the time to engage in the political process—but on Tuesday, the halls of the Legislative Office Building in Albany were teeming with students, parents, union members, lobbyists and over 40 teens from NFTY-NAR.
Tuesday is typically the busiest day of the week down at the State Capitol, but this day happened to be particularly eventful with two massive movements of education advocates converging to rally around charter schools and universal pre-k.
As part of Albany Advocacy Day, the NFTY-NAR teens were right in the middle of the action. After an intensive (and fun!) day of programming over the weekend on four crucial policy issues facing New York, a conversation with NYC Councilman Brad Lander (who is himself a former NFTY North American Social Action Vice President!) and a few hours of hard work writing lobby speeches, the teens entered the Capitol ready to meet with their legislators. Check out photos from the day here (more to come!). Read more…
In just under three weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby LobbyStores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. These two cases ask whether private corporations have ability to exercise religious freedom, and if so, whether the contraception mandate enacted by the Affordable Care Act violates the religious freedom of those corporations under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). If you want to read more about the details of the case, and to learn more about the Reform Movement’s position on the contraception mandate, check out this blog.
By Rabbi Eric Siroka
I have been following this series with great interest, curiosity and inspiration. Being asked to submit an entry reminded me that I too am a “working parent” – though that’s not usually how I describe myself among my roles as father, husband, rabbi, activist…And while finding affirmation in the words others have shared, I have found it difficult to articulate my own understanding of the challenges we working families face.
Since I last wrote about the Voting Rights Amendment Act on this blog, the crucial bill has continued to make progress in Congress, as cosponsors of both parties continue to sign on in support of the bill. Advocates are hopeful that the bill’s provisions can be implemented before the midterm Congressional election in November of this year, a decisive deadline.
Last week, the USDA and First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative announced the expansion of the free school meals program to millions of children. The school lunch and breakfast programs are crucial anti-hunger programs and this announcement is an important step towards ending hunger for millions of children.
Many more students will be receiving free school lunches because of the nationwide roll out of community eligibility for school lunch and breakfast. This program allows a school with over 40% of students receiving free school meals to serve free meals to every student in the school. The program reduces paperwork for schools and families, and reduces the stigma around eating free school lunch and breakfast. While we do not know exactly how many new students will be receiving free meals, we do know that it will affect 22,000 schools that together feed over 9 million children.
This program is a positive step towards ending hunger in America, but vulnerable families are still going to see SNAP benefit cuts as part of the Farm Bill passed by Congress last month. Please call on your Member of Congress to increase federal anti-hunger benefits.
In response to several anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine, the site of ongoing social upheaval, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement:
“The events in Ukraine are deeply concerning for all who value human rights. We pray that the unrest will be resolved in a peaceful and democratic manner and without further loss of life. At the same time, we are also greatly troubled by several recent incidents of anti-Semitism that have shaken the Ukrainian Jewish community. The vandalism including swastikas and graffiti reading ‘Death to the Jews’ on the synagogue in Simferopol in the Crimea region this past Friday is unacceptable and serves as a bitter reminder that anti-Semitism continues to plague too many Jewish communities. Read more…