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From One Battlefield to Another

This Veterans' Day, many are thinking of the difficulties experienced by returning veterans who are looking for jobs in this tight economy.

Today, Americans observe Veterans’ Day, an occasion to honor those who have bravely served this country. As we pay tribute to our veterans and their service, we also reflect on the society to which our men and women in uniform return – and we might not like what we find this year.

Each military branch recently announced plans to lay off tens of thousands of personnel, and federal budget cuts are expected to deplete at least $350 million from the Pentagon’s budget. Things aren’t much better for those who have recently left the military. The national unemployment rate may have dipped slightly last month, but things still look bleak for the nearly 850, 000 veterans who are still out of work. According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans stood at 12.1% in October, a staggering revelation to say the least.

How can these figures be accurate when a recent Monster.com study revealed that 69% of employer respondents believe veterans “perform their job functions ‘much better’” than non-veterans and 98% of employer respondents who had previously employed a veteran said they would to do so again? In addition, a new ATS/Nielsen poll of manufacturing-company CEOs revealed that 85% of respondents characterize former military candidates as having “hard-to-find skills.”

Earlier this week, President Obama unveiled new initiatives to assist unemployed veterans, including the issuance of a “veterans gold card,” which grants access to case management and job counseling; an online tool called My Next Move, which matches military skills with civilian jobs; and a new employment search engine called the Veterans Jobs Bank.

At a time when sound legislative ideas too frequently fail due to partisan political entrenchment, it’s refreshing to see bipartisan support around helping veterans find work. Yesterday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved certain provisions of President Obama’s American Jobs Act, including a proposal to grant companies tax credits for hiring unemployed veterans with disabilities.

American soldiers risk life and limb to defend our freedoms. After leaving the battlefield, our service members shouldn’t have to battle the job market just to support themselves and their families. I can think of few better ways to honor our nation’s veterans.

Photo courtesy of the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Arizona Immigration Debate Continues

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Last week, the legal team for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer filed a petition requesting that the United States Supreme Court accept her appeal of a lower court’s ruling blocking the most aggressive elements of Arizona’s new immigration law.

Parts of the law put on hold would allow police officers to investigate individuals they suspect of being illegal immigrants and require them to show documentation if approached while enforcing other laws.

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Who Says You Can Pray Your Gay Away?

story.jpgOut of all of my friends, I have always been considered “the short one.” When I was in middle school, I regularly played basketball during recess. Throughout these youthful days, not a single one of my shots made it in the hoop. All of my friends were significantly taller than me and blocked every shot I made. I’d come home from school aggravated by my poor performance and complained to my mother about my short stature problems. She reminded me that I needed patience and that soon, I would grow.

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Thou Shalt Be Fabulous: Reform Jews at Capital Pride

Capital Pride Blog.jpgLGBT equality took center stage June 11th as Washington D.C. celebrated Capital Pride, the Districts biggest and most colorful gay pride festival and parade. Needless to say, staff members from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism were out in full force, marching shoulder-to-shoulder with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters through Dupont-Logan Circle.

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The Moral Crisis We Face

GORE.jpgAt the Religious Action Center, we tackle an array of moral issues ranging from protecting women’s reproductive rights to pursuing economic justice. One of the most important moral issues we face in the 21st century took center stage Sunday night during the first night of the Consultation on Conscience: climate change.

The world’s climate crisis is an epic tragedy in the making. Let’s put aside the fact that due to global warming, the world now has millions of climate refugees. Let’s put aside the fact the global warming is significantly increasing the severity of our weather causing significant damage and death. One of the most tragic elements to the climate crisis is that we have power to end it.

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Seder Table Talk: The BP Oil Spill Anniversary

BP Oil Spill Blog.jpgAs we celebrated Passover this year, we also celebrated the 41st anniversary of Earth Day, the global day of environmental advocacy. Talk around my seder table centered on preparing for the 50th anniversary of the Religious Action Center and the upcoming Consultation on Conscience. But then things took a darker turn as we began talking about the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill disaster.

We all agreed that there were many elements to this dialogue that were baffling and frustrating. For example, despite the devastating impact the oil spill had on our ecosystem, our economy and the residents and communities of the Gulf, our fight to end our country’s crippling addiction to oil continues to feel like a losing battle. It also angered us to learn that 11 new deep water and 49 shallow water-drilling permits were recently issued in the Gulf.

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Taking Part in Something Special: Consultation on Conscience 2011

ConC.JPGMy mother always told me “things have a way of working out in the end.” She usually recited this piece of insight every time I wanted something I couldn’t afford or when I wanted to go somewhere special but couldn’t find the time. For the most part, hearing these famous words would annoy me and evoke a snarky response like “gee, thanks for that, Mom!”

Although this is my first year at the Religious Action Center, I’ve been well aware of the Consultation on Conscience for quite some time. In 2007, I was a recent college graduate in Los Angeles with little money and a lot on his plate so when I heard that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and (then) Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton were confirmed to speak, I was more than a little frustrated that I couldn’t attend.

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Our Oil Addiction is Killing Us

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The Religious Action Center collaborated with a diverse coalition of religious and environmental organizations to conduct a congressional briefing on the public health impacts of oil. Identifying clean and sustainable energy solutions that mitigate our dependence on oil is as important as ever. It is imperative to recognize the effects of our destructive relationship with oil, from the impacts on the natural environment and the health of our local communities to the economy. 
 

Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center, offered a unique take on this critical issue through a Jewish lens. Mark stressed that our oil addiction continues to be a major threat to both human health and environmental health. He also emphasized that the Reform Jewish community approaches the topic of oil dependence as an “issue of justice and an issue on which inaction is simply inexcusable.”

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