Turning on the news, it seems like all that anyone is talking about these days is the Ebola virus. From the news, to our offices, to our conversations amongst friends, we’ve been hearing every day about what symptoms to look for, how to safeguard against it, and how far it might spread. One American man […]Read more
This week, we will read Parashat Noach, which tells the story of Noah and the flood. In this parashah (Torah portion), as the flood came upon the Earth over the course of seven days, Noah and his family took shelter in the ark, along with all the animals that “went two and two … into […]Read more
Commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
By Michael Lieberman This month we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), the most important, comprehensive, and inclusive federal hate crime enforcement law passed in the past 40 years. The Anti-Defamation League and the Religious Action Center played critical roles helping […]Read more
In B’reishit, this week’s Torah portion (parashah), we read the epitomic Jewish environmental verses: “The Lord God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to till and tend it” (Genesis 2:15). For both Jewish and Christian communities, this line is the basis of our obligation as stewards of the environment.
In the story of creation, God gives to the first human beings “every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth” along with “everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is the breath of life” (Genesis 1:29-30). The human being’s task then, is to take care of what God has already given, what existed there before people inhabited the earth.
This parashah speaks to me for what it says about human accountability for our impact on the world around us. At its core, Jewish theology teaches us that there’s something greater than our immediate needs. In the same way that Adam and Eve are told to “till and tend” the Garden of Eden, we have a covenantal obligation to tend to the world we have been given, to hold ourselves and those who represent us responsible for the long-term welfare of our earth, for our families and communities and those less fortunate than our own.
If we hope to live in a world with sea levels low enough and temperatures cool enough to produce food for the global population, we must take it upon ourselves to till and tend as we can. Do your part by GreenFaith Energy Shield Certification to ensure that we minimize our community’s carbon footprint. Today we must act, in covenant and partnership, and raise our voices to help stem climate disaster. If you’re interested in doing more take my Tishrei Green Challenge and stop using plastic bags, or tell the Environmental Protection Agency that you support carbon pollution standards for existing power plants.
With Election Day only two weeks away, there’s no better topic to discuss than voting rights. The civil rights community is calling today #RestoreVotingRights Day in an effort to engage social media in this important conversation. This election will be the least protected election in almost 50 years because of Congress’s failure to act in the wake of the Shelby County Supreme Court decision. Free and fair elections, secured by the Voting Rights Act, are the cornerstone of American democracy, and this issue should be seen in that way. Voting rights is a Jewish issue, a civil rights issue, a Democratic issue, a Republican issue, and an issue for everyone who believes in our democracy. Read more…
Here at the Religious Action Center, we take pride in our founding to be a Jewish voice against discrimination and segregation in the early 1960s. Kivie Kaplan (President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1966-1975), for whom the street where is RAC is located is named, was driving in Miami in the 1950s and came across a sign that barred him from entering a hotel because he was Jewish. His driver, a black man, commented that the hotel’s segregation against blacks was implied. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, key legislation in the fight against segregation, was even drafted in the Religious Action Center’s conference room. Read more…
Torture, while cruel and inhumane, is not something that we often hear about from mainstream media, nor is it something we have written about very recently at the Religious Action Center. The Reform Jewish position on this issue is clear: in a post-9/11 world we understand the need for enhanced national security, and yet we believe that security must be balanced with the importance of civil liberties and bodily autonomy. Experts agree that torturing prisoners or holding them in extended solitary confinement go beyond the practical needs of national security (since torture is found to be an ineffective way to obtain information) and abandon the constitutional right to due process as well as fundamental Jewish values. Nearly six years after President Obama came into office and promised to close Guantanamo Bay, the detention center stays open and the 149 individuals held there remain.
Last night we celebrated Shemini Atzeret, the last day of Sukkot. As the final day of the fall harvest chag, Shemini Atzeret includes a special prayer for rain called Tefillat Geshem. In the Biblical state of Israel (as opposed to in river-crossed Egypt) rain had incredible significance and was central to the continued viability of Israelite communities. Their gratitude to God for providing rain was necessarily a cornerstone of their religious identity.
In college, I spent a semester working at a London-based Jewish non-profit that focused on development projects within Ukraine’s marginalized Jewish population, and during that semester I found myself learning a great deal about Ukraine and the people who live there. As someone who cares about the people in Ukraine, and as someone who cares about the world around Ukraine, the violence that erupted this summer is scary and depressing. The news was at times hard to believe, from hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians being displaced, to ever-bleaker prospects among the LGBT community there, to the still-unresolved tragedy of the Malaysia Airlines jet being shot down by pro-Russian separatists.
Last Saturday, October 11, was International Day of the Girl. Just two years ago, the UN established this commemorative day to raise awareness about all issues concerning gender inequality for young women and children around the world. The day is used as an opportunity for activist groups to come together with the goal of highlighting, discussing, and taking action to advance rights and opportunities for girls everywhere. Read more…
“When I transitioned, I transitioned into poverty.” This statement by Ruby Corado, a transgender woman who founded a Bilingual Multicultural Drop Inn-Community Center for vulnerable LGBT individuals, highlights the economic and housing hardships many LGBT individuals face. Although LGBT individuals make up a small percentage of the population, 40% of the homeless youth served by agencies that administer homeless services identify as LGBT.