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The Newseum Institute

Panel Discussion November 7: 20th Anniversary of RFRA

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the RAC is excited to present a fascinating panel discussion this November in conjunction with the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum and several leading faith groups. If you’re not in the Washington, D.C. Metro area – never fear! The event will be streamed live online! Stay tuned to RACBlog and the RAC Twitter (@therac, twitter.com/therac) for updates. Read on for details –  Read more…

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Legislative Assistants 2013-2014

A (Formal) Introduction to the New Eisendrath Legislative Assistants

Though their arrival at the RAC dropped them right into the thick of the High Holiday season, the new 2013-2014 class of Eisendrath Legislative Assistants have plowed full-steam-ahead into their new positions. Between attending coalition meetings, immersing themselves in the legislative climate surrounding their diverse advocacy portfolios, and figuring out how to use the copy machine, this class is as hard-working, bright, and passionate about Jewish social justice as ever. From left to right in the group photo, they are:
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Jewish Clergy for Immigration Reform

Jewish Clergy Call on Congress to Pass Immigration Reform

On the eve of Yom Kippur, nearly 1,300 rabbis and a number of cantors from all streams of American Jewry have joined together to call on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

The letter was issued during the Jewish High Holy Days in keeping with the spirit of self-examination as individuals and as a society. Coordinated by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the letter was signed by leading clergy of the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist Movements. This unified call for common sense immigration reform by a broad range of American Jewish clergy reflects a shared commitment to a path to citizenship, improved family reunification policies, humane and effective border security, sensible worker visa policies, and avenues for refugees and asylum seekers.
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Remembering 9/11

Commemorate Sept. 11 by Bridging Divides

We must not allow this attack on America to divide Americans.”

On September 13, 2001 we were all still reeling from the whirlwind of the 9/11 attacks, and we were still processing the events that would forever be engrained in our nation’s collective memory. But on that day, Rabbis Eric Yoffie and David Saperstein had the clarity of mind to foresee that, in the months and years that would follow attacks on the United States by individuals who happened to be Muslim, many might struggle to separate the acts of individuals from the teachings of an entire religion.

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High Holidays

High Holy Days Sermons

This time of year is one of particular inspiration. Many of us are spending more time in synagogue in these few weeks than we do during the rest of the year, and our rabbis are putting hours and hours of preparation into their sermons. Across the U.S. and Canada, our congregants heard beautiful, articulate, inspiring and provoking sermons during Rosh Hashanah and look forward to equally meaningful ones on Yom Kippur.

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Reform California

100 Reform California Clergy Come Together for the TRUST Act

With the High Holy Days upon us, there is time for reflection, prayer and “teshuvah,” meaning repentance or, more literally, turning and returning.  Returning to our best selves, returning to be fully present with our loved ones, and returning to those in our cities, states, and country to work for a better world.  Reform CA, a campaign of the California Reform Jewish Movement, collectively representing over 36,000 Reform Jews in California, is turning and returning together with a powerful interfaith coalition to heal rifts within California and address the suffering of immigrant families throughout the state.   Reform Jews are organizing to ensure the passage of the TRUST Act, critical statewide immigration legislation which will reverse a culture of fear that is pervasive in California’s immigrant community, restore the trust between immigrants and local law enforcement, and protect victims of domestic abuse as well as witnesses and victims of others crimes.

This week, a letter from over 100 Reform rabbis and cantors in California urging the passage of a just TRUST Act was delivered to Governor Jerry Brown by Rabbi Mona Alfi of Congregation B’nai Israel in Sacramento and Jennifer Kaufman, the Director of the Commission on Social Action on behalf of Reform CA. Reform clergy are standing together to ask for Governor Brown’s partnership in lifting up California as a model of dignity and justice for immigrants across the nation.  As Jews, we, too, have known the experience of being aspiring Americans and seeking full inclusion in America and so we join together with this generation of those seeking a better life for their families.

Rabbi Alfi has been committed to the cause of humane and just immigration reform for as long as she can remember:

“Working for immigrant rights and immigration reform is personal to me. I do this in my father’s memory.  My father and his family were all immigrants.  My siblings and I are the only ones in our generation that were born here, and it is not a blessing I take for granted.  This country has surely given us in the most literal sense, life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness.  My father believed in the American dream, and this is my way to work to preserve that dream for others.”

It is in the spirit of our collective and personal experiences that Reform CA feels compelled to speak out in support of the TRUST Act. As of the publishing of this article, Reform CA community members and clergy have together delivered over 360 phone calls to Governor Brown’s office as we act together for justice. Read the full letter to Governor Brown here.

To participate in the Reform Califonia Call-In Day, call 1-866-730-9344 to hear a brief recording of talking points and be connected to Governor Brown’s office. You can also text “TRUSTAct” to 877-877 or fill out this form to receive text instructions to connect. For more information, contact Rabbi Stephanie Kolin at skolin@urj.org

 

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MLK, Jr.

Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

50 years ago, hundreds of thousands of people gathered at the Lincoln Monument to listen as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recited the now-famous words, “I have a dream.”

50 years ago, some 250,000 Americans of all races, religions, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds marched with their brothers and sisters as one. They marched for civil and economic rights for African Americans, and for the values that imbued our nation’s founding: the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

50 years ago, the Reform Jewish Community was on the front lines of this battle. Our Movement’s leaders helped lead some of the most important civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

50 years ago, Kivie Kaplan, a Reform Jew, URJ board member, and prominent advocate served as the president of the NAACP and also was the RAC’s founding benefactor, donating the building in which we continue to operate. And, of course, the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were drafted in the RAC’s conference room.

50 years ago, American Jews were active participants and leaders in the Civil Rights Movement’s protests, rallies and advocacy efforts from coast to coast. This weekend, commemorate this momentous anniversary with us, either in D.C. or in your community.

Press Coverage/Statements/Articles
“The Jews Who Marched on Washington” – by Seth Berkman, Jewish Daily Forward
Speech at 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington – Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, Union for Reform Judaism
“Reflections on the March on Washington” – Rabbi Richard Hirsch, Founder, Religious Action Center 
The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement” – by Ruth Messinger, President, American Jewish World Service

Resources 
Check out our Shabbat Tzedek portal for resources to celebrate this important moment in history, and look forward to the work still left to be done, at your Shabbat services this weekend or next.

  • Watch our video about the role the Reform Movement played in the civil rights movement
  • Check out the prayers, services/readings or other ritual materials to help observe this anniversary
  • Peruse the historic social justice anthems, music, photos and images, and other archival materials that document the era.

Events in Washington, D.C. 

Saturday, August 24: March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial beginning at 8:00AM and lasting until 12:30PM. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, to speak at opening prayer service.

Wednesday, August 28: Join us at the RAC (2027 Massachusetts Avenue, NW) at 8:30AM for a bagel breakfast and then walk with our staff to the National Mall for speeches by Presidents Obama, Clinton and Carter. RSVP here by Tuesday evening!

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Weekend of Twinning

Weekend of Twinning

The RAC is, for the first time, co-sponsoring the Weekend of Twinning with the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and the Islamic Society of North America. Join the largest ‘gathering’ of Muslims and Jews anywhere in the world by partnering for a weekend of learning and exploration with a local mosque. Most 2013 Weekend of Twinning events around the world will be held November 15-17, but those who are unable to hold their events that weekend due to scheduling issues are free to hold their events anytime throughout the “Season of Twinning” – November or December.

This year’s theme is Standing Up for the Other and, as a twinning congregation, we will supply you with materials to enhance the dialogue between your two communities. If you do not already have a relationship with a local mosque, we are happy to connect you with a community partner.

Please contact Katharine Nasielski or Walter Ruby for questions or to become a Twinning Congregation!

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