Yes on Question 4 in Massachusetts; earned sick time now

Double Booked: In Massachusetts, Ballot Question 4 Brings Us Home



By Rabbi Matthew Soffer

When I read the language Question 4 (a ballot question to ensure earned sick time in the Commonwealth), and I contemplate how Jewish values relate, I’m drawn particularly to that fundamental paradigm of home vs. exile, which is so central to Judaism. Obviously, the emergence of the State of Israel gave physical, geographical shape to that exile/home binary, but fundamentally we know that exile vs. home is a metaphysical issue. That our tradition demands that we recognize exile when we see it, that we mourn over it, and that we fight to come home.

From the literal exiles of 586 BCE to 70CE, and in the Rabbinic Period when the bayit (the home), the dinner table to be more specific, according to one Talmudic voice, replaced the altar in the Temple: fighting to come home, in our tradition, is “how we roll.”
When we consider the state of the home, particularly what working families are facing now, compared to, say, 30 years ago, I interpret this as a pernicious sort of exile. It is so utterly hard right now for working families to make families work.  And money matters. The very fact that a year of childcare in an average childcare center is more than a year of college education in the average undergrad state school says enough.

When I was growing up most people had one parent working and one parent at home, and their families were even able to put something away for the future.  Now that majority is the minority—most families I know have both parents working, in workplaces that have policies of the 50s, and they’re struggling to make home work.  When living this out personally, and supporting so many others in my community through it, it’s hard to see it as anything but a type of galut, of exile.  And what I hear time and again is a sort of middle class guilt when people say, “oh but I know that others have it worse!”  Yes, they do; that doesn’t obviate your suffering, it just makes this bill and this fight all the more desperate.

So this, in my view, is one of many pieces of legislation we need in order to come home.  It’s a matter of sh’lom bayit, of peace and wellness in the family.  Of course, sh’lom bayit is typically cited as a reason for families to stop fighting.  But now, sh’lom bayit really is the reason to fight for families.  The end result will be a greater number of workplaces that can be proud to be inching their way toward just policies that reflect the values to which most workplaces actually aspire.

Spread the word about Question Four! Join the RAC, the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Justice and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston in our Thunderclap. Thunderclap, described as an “online flash mob,” allows supporters to commit to send the same Tweet and Facebook post all at the same time, and the software arranges for the messages to be sent automatically. By sending a message on November 3, we have the opportunity to raise awareness about Question 4 right before Election Day. Sign up for the Thunderclap here!

Rabbi Matthew Soffer


Rabbi Matthew Soffe
serves as an associate rabbi of Temple Israel of Boston, where he overseas social justice community organizing and directs the Riverway Project, an initiative which connects young adults to Judaism. Check out his blog, Jewminations or follow him on twitter @mattsoffer.

 

Comments are an important part of the conversation. Share your thoughts in the comments sectionThis blog is part of a special RACBlog series, “Double Booked: A Conversation about Working Families in the 21st Century,” dealing with the many issues that affect working families, and featuring everything from personal stories to policy analysis. Visit the Double Booked portal to read more posts, or join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #doublebooked.

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