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Tri-Faith Center in Omaha

Coexistence on the Prairie

This article by Robert Goldblum originally appeared in the New York Jewish Week on August 13, 2013

In the heartland city of Omaha, at a meandering stream called Hell Creek, Jews, Christians and Muslims are knocking on heaven’s door.

In what is likely the most far-reaching experiment in interfaith relations in the country, the largest Jewish congregation in Omaha, along with the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska and the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture will share space in a 35-acre parcel of land in suburban West Omaha. The multi-million-dollar project is called the Tri-Faith Initiative; each of the institutions will have its own building/worship space, and a fourth building, the Tri-Faith Center, will eventually serve as a kind of interfaith gathering place and educational center.
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Eric Holder

DOJ Announces Scaled-Back “Mandatory Minimum” Sentences

In a dramatic shift in U.S. criminal justice policy, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that the Justice Department will no longer pursue mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, non-violent drug offenders.

Holder acknowledged what the Reform Movement has known for decades: “It’s clear…that too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason.”

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The New Republic

The New Republic Shines Spotlight on IRAC

So many of us have been watching the amazing successes of Women of the Wall in Israel led by one of our fearless Reform Movement leaders, Anat Hoffman. Due in part to their activism, there have certainly been significant steps forward for women’s rights and religious freedom in Israel, and these issues, which so rarely gain coverage in the American press, have finally permeated the international news cycle.

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RAC logo

Featuring the RAC: Immigration Reform and Supreme Court Rulings

Yesterday, capping off an exciting week, the Senate passed its version of comprehensive immigration reform. This bill was widely supported by the Reform Movement. Rachel Laser, our deputy director, was quoted in Haaretz saying, “The bill contains priorities the Reform Jewish Movement has long championed, including a pathway to citizenship, legal avenues for future flow of immigrants, enhanced ways for families to be reunited, and important protections for workers.” Our support of the bill also received coverage in JTA, Huffington Post, the Forward and The Jewish Press. While our long history of supporting rights of immigrants drove our supporting the bill, our Movement also had specific stakes in the legislative battle. RAC staff and rabbis across the country worked closely with Senate offices to develop, promote and advance language that protects cultural exchange visitors, such as Israeli and other international camp staff members. Rachel was also quoted in the Forward as saying that these visas “allow an important cultural exchange between American youth and international staff members.”

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marriage equality matzah logo

Momentous Decisions on Marriage Equality

What a way to finish off this term at the Supreme Court! After waiting with baited breath by our computers, and after stomaching yesterday’s disappointing decision restricting the Voting Rights Act, the RAC staff was glued to at 10AM awaiting the marriage equality decisions: Hollingsworth v. Perry (commonly referred to as DOMA) and Windsor v. United States (known as Prop 8).

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Reform Movement Urges Prime Minister Netanyahu to Suspend Plan for Negev Bedouin

The Knesset is currently considering the “Begin Plan,” which, if approved, will move at least 30,000 Bedouin from unrecognized villages to recognized ones. Urging that the Knesset suspend this plan until a full review of its implications is conducted, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent the following letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis:

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RAC logo

Featuring the RAC…

This post is part of a weekly feature on RACblog. Check in at the end of the week for a roundup of stories in which the RAC has been featured!

Tonight, Rabbi Saperstein will honor Temple Hesed in Scranton, PA as the winners of our 50,000 Voices competition. Temple Hesed is celebrating its designation as the winner of the Religious Action Center’s 50,000 Voices for Justice campaign, an effort to build ever stronger relationships between the Reform Movement’s social justice center in Washington D.C. and the Movement’s 900 congregations throughout North America.

This week we also mourned the passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg. Rabbi Saperstein, in an op-ed in Haaretz, reflected: “In all that he did, he pursued justice through just means, using the tools of government to transform and better the lives of others. America, Israel and the cause of freedom worldwide are better because this modest, gentle, caring man decided to use his gifts and accomplishments to make the world a better place. Many young people have dreamed such dreams of achievement. Because of America’s freedoms and his own immense skills, Sen. Frank Lautenberg was blessed in his life to fulfill those dreams.” Rabbi Saperstein’s comments on Senator Lautenberg’s legacy were also recorded in the Arizona Jewish Post and the New York Jewish Week.

And just yesterday, the RAC hosted a press conference urging that, in his meeting with President Xi Jinping, President Obama discuss the continued imprisonment of hundreds of prisoners of conscience in Chinese prisons. The press conference received broad coverage from the New York Times, Reuters, Pakistan Today, BBC and Yahoo! News.

Shabbat Shalom, and from all of us in D.C., happy Pride Parade!

Reform Movement Mourns Passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg

On the occasion of the death of Senator Frank Lautenberg, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Senator Frank Lautenberg’s death is not only a great loss for his family and friends, but for the U.S. Congress, the nation, the Jewish people and the global community. Throughout a public service career that spanned more than six decades, from his military service in World War II to his leadership in the Senate, Frank Lautenberg was a force for justice.

We were privileged to have the opportunity to work closely with him and his staff for nearly 30 years. When, following his significant achievements in the business world and his leadership of Jewish communal institutions, including the national United Jewish Appeal, he came to the U.S. Senate, we appreciated how closely he worked with us when the Supreme Court struck down the right of military members to wear yarmulkes and led the way in passing legislation to restore that right. He was among the most outspoken Jewish members on the issue of religious liberty in the U.S. and religious pluralism and equality for the all the Jewish religious streams in Israel. We greatly appreciated his constant leadership of efforts to pass sensible gun control, including closing the gun show loophole, and worked closely with the Senator and his staff on this issue over many years. Read more…