It’s only Week 2 of the RAC’s Machon Kaplan Summer Social Action Internship Program, and already our participants have been blogging up a storm! You’ve seen their RACblog contributions on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the “new four questions” and paddle boating, but check out what some of the MKs have been writing around the blogosphere:
It’s hard to believe we’re already two weeks into the month of June, but I’d like to rewind for a bit and reflect on the beautiful guest posts we were able to feature here last month. Each month, the Reform Movement spotlights a theme across its online presence, and May’s theme was “40 Years of Women on the Bimah,” leading up to the 40th anniversary of Rabbi Sally Priesand’s historic ordination as the first female rabbi in the United States. Throughout May, we joined RJ.org in highlighting the voices of rabbis, cantors, educators, community leaders and congregants talking about what the role of women in Reform Judaism and North American life means to them.
The voices on RACblog came from all over the Movement and the RAC family, including Commission on Social Action (CSA) members, former Eisendrath Legislative Assistants and NFTYites. The authors paid tribute to their mentors and reflected on what we can do to honor their memories; they told stories of inspiring women who lived down the street—or in their own families—and stories of inspiring women from the other side of the world. I encourage you to read through the posts:
Voting rights advocates in Ohio were mobilizing for a November referendum to repeal a restrictive voting rights law – and then last Tuesday, Gov. John Kasich signed an almost-complete repeal of the very law he had approved one year earlier. I say “almost complete” because the repeal legislation left one provision in place – and that is why the fight goes on.
House Bill 194 would have restricted absentee and early voting, imposed new restrictions on the counting of provisional ballots, and prohibited poll workers from assisting voters who need help finding their correct poll location or completing forms. Advocates were successful in postponing implementation of House Bill 194 pending the outcome of the November referendum, but the backlash against the measure was so strong that the Legislature passed an almost-complete repeal and Gov. Kasich signed the repeal last week.
The provision that was left in place: the prohibition against early voting during the three days before an election.
I first fell in love with Washington, D.C., when I lived here for six weeks as part of the RAC’s Machon Kaplan College Internship Program. Now that I’ve lived here for nearly two years, I’ve realized that one of my favorite things about the city is that there is always something happening—a new exhibit, a new street festival, a new lecture, sometimes even a new memorial, and always new people moving here and coming to visit.
Sure enough, this month I have a new exhibit to explore: “Weaving Women’s Words: Washington, D.C., Stories.” This exhibit, sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Archive, features video interviews with nine D.C. Jewish women, including Marcia Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center and one of the RAC’s longtime coalition partners. These women are lawyers, activists, artists, physicians—all women who have dedicated their lives to make the world a better place. The exhibit was put together to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month, which occurs every May since President George W. Bush proclaimed the month in 2006. The exhibit is particularly appropriate this May, when the URJ is celebrating Jewish women and their contributions to our Movement and North America.
More than 50 Reform Jews will gather in Albany, NY, on Monday to advocate for three issues—reproductive health, campaign finance reform and an increase in the minimum wage—as part of Reform Jewish Voice (RJV) of New York State’s Annual Advocacy Day. The latter issue is more salient than ever as many Americans are still struggling to recover from the economic downturn. In a state where 2.6 million residents live below the poverty line ($18,310 for a family of three), an increase in the minimum wage should be the first step in a long line of policy directives to eradicate income inequality and ensure that all New York citizens have the right to live the American dream.
New York is not the only state to consider raising its minimum wage. The issue is also being considered in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri and New Jersey (legislation to raise the minimum wage passed the Delaware State Senate in late January but failed in the House last week). But the action isn’t only in state capitals—in fact, at the same time that RJV’s advocates are meeting with state legislators in Albany, other Reform Jews and faith advocates are working to pass a minimum wage increase in New York City. As Rabbi Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim writes:
Most of the headlines about a new Public Religion Research Institute poll on Jewish values and political beliefs have focused on question about who the respondents would like to see win the 2012 presidential election: “2 in 3 Jewish voters back Obama,” Politico declared. “In poll, Jewish voters overwhelmingly support Obama,” said The New York Times. “Most Jews support Obama’s re-election: survey,” according to Reuters.
As someone who was in the room at the official release of the poll’s results, I can acknowledge that this finding is certainly newsworthy. But the survey also asked American Jews some interesting questions about the kinds of experiences and values that influence their political beliefs and Jewish identity; their beliefs on the role of government in addressing economic inequality and the proper balance between diplomacy and military intervention in crafting foreign policy; their attitudes toward prominent social issues such as immigration, abortion and marriage equality; and their perceptions of the challenges facing Israel and the status of the U.S.-Israel relationship. I encourage you to read the full report, “Chosen for What? Jewish Values in 2012,” to glean all of the findings, but I’ll highlight a few of the ones that piqued my interest given our work at the RAC:
We’re excited to share the following press release, which recaps a Jewish Disability Awareness Month event that was held on February 8 at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY. Even though Jewish Disability Awareness Month 2012 has come to an end, our work does not stop: Visit the RAC’s disability rights page to learn more about this issue and what you can do every day, all year, to make your communities more inclusive and accessible.
The full press release appears below.
Last weekend, nearly 250 high school students came to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Bernard and Audre Rapoport L’Taken social justice seminar, the fifth such seminar this academic year. As we noted on RACblog earlier this month, many of the L’Taken participants have chosen to lobby their Members of Congress to support the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act (HR 2376), which would ensure federal funding of embryonic stem cell research can continue as presidents change. Gabby Bleich, Daniel Sanders, Brian Mandel and Michael Roggenburg of Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, NJ, (their congregation is pictured above) lobbied Rep. Leonard Lance (NJ-7) on HR 2376 during the last L’Taken seminar, and I’ve asked them to share the text they prepared for their lobby visit. An excerpt appears below: