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This Week at the RAC…

To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long strange week it’s been.  As you know, I grew up in Montreal and learned about the virtues of universal health care, Anne of Green Gables, and poutine (if you’re into that sort of thing). I also learned how to recognize a snowstorm. So when meteorologists predicted a storm that would bring 6-12 inches of snow to DC on Wednesday and the federal and local governments shut down, I and most of the RAC staff planned to work from home. By 9 am, big fluffy flakes were coming down.  By 9:45, it was raining. I can tell you from experience: a major snow storm this was not. So much for the “snowquester.”

Despite the bifurcated week, there’s been a lot going on. As I mentioned last Friday, Congress finally passed the Violence Against Women Act. I was honored to be invited to the bill’s signing ceremony on Thursday and to see the President finally put his signature on the law. Vice President Biden, who authored the original VAWA in 1994, also spoke eloquently about its significant impact and how the new law that includes stronger protections for Native American women and members of the LGBT community will do even more. It was a particularly moving ceremony and included truly spectacular traditional clothing worn by some of the Native American women in attendance.

Speaking of women-related issues, if you haven’t yet seen the very well done PBS documentary “Makers,” I highly recommend this history of the women’s movement from the 1960s on. It features interviews with everyone from Gloria Steinem to Phyllis Schlafly to Sheryl Sandberg. The program and additional interviews are available on the show’s website.

Thursday also saw the Senate Judiciary Committee mark up four gun violence prevention bills: the Assault Weapons Ban (S. 150 / Feinstein), the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act (S. 54 / Leahy), the Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act (S. 374 / Schumer) and the School Safety Enhancements Act (S. 146 / Boxer). There is still a long way to go between here and a signing ceremony for any of these bills, but what will help make that happen is keeping up the pressure on Congress.

This weekend the Jewish Council for Public Affairs holds its annual Plenum and David Saperstein, Rachel Laser, and I are among the featured speakers. David will be part of today’s plenary session on “Jewish Consensus and Controversy: Same Sex Relationships.”  Rachel Laser is presenting in a forum on gun violence prevention. I’m speaking in a session focused on working with rabbis on social justice campaigns. Other speakers include Ambassador Michael Oren and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.  It’s always a great conference.

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Barbara Weinstein

About Barbara Weinstein

Barbara Weinstein is the Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism and Associate Director of the Religious Action Center.

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