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This Week at the RAC: NFTY Visits, Disability Advocacy and Immigration Reform

As you know, part of the work we take most seriously at the RAC is the training and mentoring of the next generation of social justice leaders. This week reflected that happy responsibility more than most.

On Monday, Michael Namath and the LAs joined all 30 of our Machon Kaplan interns at the White House, where they spoke with Zach Kelly, who handles outreach to the Jewish community on behalf of President Obama. Zach spoke about the Administration’s priorities and shared insights into his own career trajectory.

We also welcomed the NFTY Regional Social Action Vice Presidents, who spent three days in D.C. learning about our Movement’s social justice history and ways in which they can contribute this year. I gave them a tour of the memorials on the National Mall. In addition to being inspired by standing where Martin Luther King Jr. stood to deliver his “I Have a Dream Speech,” they got to climb all over Albert Einstein.

On Thursday, Lynne Landsberg, Raechel Banks and our two Machon Kaplan interns were part of the Faith Community Luncheon for the Disability Treaty, where they discussed strategy to push the Senate to approve the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Approximately 650 million people, some 10 percent of the world population, live with a disability—making them the world’s largest minority. The Convention is based on the ideals of the Americans with Disabilities Act, intended to empower persons with disabilities to be independent and productive citizens.  The last Senate vote on the CRPD failed in December 2012, and we’re urging a new vote this summer. You can send an email to your Senators here.

We also spent time this week working on the comprehensive immigration reform bill that is wrapping up in the Senate. A vote on final passage is expected early next week, so if you haven’t yet weighed in, there’s no time like the present. Aside from our general advocacy in support of the bill, we’ve been particularly focused on a provision related to visas used by our URJ summer camps to bring over Israeli and other international staff. As the bill stands, it would make it significantly more difficult and costly to hire these staff members who do so much to build ties between American campers and staff and Israelis in particular. We could use some help bringing this issue to senators’ attention, so please take a moment to send an email today and urge your friends to do the same.

Lots of eyes were on Israel this week as world dignitaries, activists and celebrities gathered for the Presidential Conference hosted by and celebrating Shimon Peres. Among the speakers were Bill Clinton, Barbra Streisand and our own Rick Jacobs. One talked politics, one sang and one reflected on Jewish values and women’s equality. I’ll let you figure out who did what.

Amidst all the hustle and bustle, we’re managing to work in a little summer fun too. On Friday night, a group of about 80 current and former staff and interns went to the see the Washington Nationals play the Colorado Rockies. I’m happy to report the Nats won 5-1.

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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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