Archive | March 28, 2012

An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse

An offer I couldn’t refuse – that’s what IRAC Executive Director Anat Hoffman made me when, after she spoke at Montreal’s Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, I indicated that I was looking for volunteer work for my winter sabbatical in Jerusalem. Then and there she asked me to volunteer at IRAC.

I said yes with enthusiasm. My engaging assignments have placed me alongside Anat’s dedicated staff. I helped to promote and lead Freedom Rides that ensure the desegregation of Israel’s buses, launch a social justice sermon data base, recruit IRAC volunteers in North America, and I had a front row seat to observe IRAC in action. It has been a sabbatical of both learning and giving, volunteer work that I can recommend to any rabbinic colleague as both a challenge and a worthy use of expertise.

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Register Today: How to Start a Food-Producing Garden

What’s been growing at Temple Emanuel in Dallas, TX? Besides cabbage, cucumbers, and pumpkins, a new love for the Earth has blossomed among preschoolers at this URJ congregation. Connecting preschoolers with Judaism through nature, the Gan Shalom Chai garden serves as the preschool’s outdoor classroom for lessons in planting, ecology, nutrition and animal science.

Temple Emanuel is just one of dozens of Reform congregations that have started food-producing gardens in their backyards. Whether congregations are looking to create a hands-on learning tool for people of any age, broaden their social justice work by donating the produce to those in need, or establish a shared space for worship and celebrations, gardens can transform congregational life. If you are interested in bringing this amazing project to your synagogue, join us on April 3 for a special webinar “Planting to Pe’ah: How-To’s of Starting a Food-Producing Garden at Your Congregation” to learn how to get started! Read more…

Wednesday: The Fight Over Federalism

It’s the third and final day for the Affordable Care Act at the Supreme Court, and the topics of severability and Medicaid expansion take center stage.

The justices spent 90 minutes this morning listening to arguments on the issue of severability, which is the principle that determines the fate of the whole law should the individual mandate be struck down.  Let’s assume for a moment that the minimum coverage requirement is found to be unconstitutional. The Court must then decide whether the provision is severable or not severable from the rest of the law. That is, can other provisions in the ACA function independently, or is the individual mandate necessary for the proper execution of the whole law.

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NY Leaders Agree to On-Time Budget

Now that New York’s state legislature has come to an agreement on a pension deal for new state employees and finally decided on a redistricting proposal, lawmakers are aiming to pass the second on-time state budget in a row (last year’s budget was the first on-time budget since 1983!) State Senate President Dean Skelos said, “Just as years of late budgets symbolized Albany’s dysfunction, on-time budgets show that state government is working again.” The next fiscal year begins on April 1, a deadline state legislators are eager to meet.

Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and state Senate President Dean Skelos have prioritized key issues for New Yorkers in this state budget, including education, infrastructure and juvenile justice. Read more…

EPA Issues Important New Climate Standards

Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued the first-ever greenhouse gas limits for power plants, marking the end of new conventional coal plants in the United States and encouraging cleaner-burning alternatives. In response to the announcement of these important new climate standards, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

“Climate change is one of the greatest social justice challenges of our time and as a leading global emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States must take bold steps to reduce climate-altering pollution and shift to clean, renewable energy sources. As such, we welcome the EPA’s new limits on greenhouse gas emissions. These vital regulations will place a check on new coal-fired power plants that contribute so significantly to the climate crisis. Read more…

Health Care as Jewish Issue, Communal Issue

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we read, “Who will live and who will die.” Does it ever occur to us that when it comes to health care, the decision is in our hands? “Who will live and who will die.”

The lack of universal access to health care in our nation often determines who will live and who will die.  And we allow it.  We allow people to die in emergency rooms. We allow people to die who lack essential coverage. We allow people to die simply for lack of care. Who will live and who will die? We as a community are responsible for the lack of adequate health care for the poor. And let’s not ignore reality – we as a community are responsible for the lack of adequate health care for many members of our congregations.

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Will Pope’s Visit Bring Alan Gross’ Release?

On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Cuba to meet with Raul Castro. Anticipation for this visit has been building since December, when the Cuban government announced that it would release 2,900 prisoners in advance of the Pope’s arrival. However, notably absent from the list of prisoners to be released was Maryland Jew Alan Gross. The Pope’s visit this week provides a prime opportunity to reiterate the call for Gross’ release on humanitarian grounds.

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