Archive by Author
Homeless youth

Capital of Economic Inequality?

Last July, I packed up all of my bags, loaded up the trunk of my dad’s car, and made the trek from New England to move to Washington D.C. and begin my post-collegiate professional life.

While I’ve been enjoying the past year in the Nation’s Capital, amidst learning WMATA and running routes, dashing between meetings, enjoying the monuments and museums, it’s impossible not to see the rampant inequality in the District. In Dupont Circle alone, just blocks from the RAC’s office on Kivie Kaplan Way, too many people experiencing homelessness camp out at night, not sure where else to go in the hazy humidity of a D.C. summer or during the winter nights before the federal government closes for a snow day.

Read more…

Uncategorized
Rabbi Beth Singer marching with the Torah

We March in the Footsteps of the Great Figures of Our Tradition

Our Jewish tradition is full of journeys, from the very beginning of our sacred texts. Adam and Eve’s exile from the Garden of Eden; Noah’s Ark and his aquatic sojourn – while these are not explicit commandments from God, they are journeys for these Biblical figures. Later, in parashat Lech Lecha (literally, “go” or “leave”), God commands Abraham “go from your land … to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 17:27). Later on, we read of Moses’ journey from Egypt to Midian, back to Egypt, and then his leadership of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt and the subsequent wandering in the desert for forty years before entering the Promised Land. Ruth leaves Moab with Naomi to a new land, Israel, where she is a stranger, and finds a new life. Over the course of millennia, Jewish individuals and the Jewish people have journeyed, whether by choice, whether by command from God, whether by necessity due to forced exile, anti-Semitism or more modern crises, such as the pogroms.

Journeys, both literal and figurative, are familiar to us as Jews. Journeys are not easy, and the miles walked and the distances covered illustrate for us the challenges and struggles of the time.

Read more…

Uncategorized

The Perils of Payday Loans

There are too many Americans struggling to make it paycheck to paycheck because of insufficient wages, and this struggle is further exacerbated by numerous other issues, including payday lending.

A payday loan is a small loan that is framed as being an easy way to help borrowers and to hold them over until they receive their next payment. These loans are typically around $500 or less, and are usually due on a worker’s next payday. Yet these loans do the opposite of creating relief for borrowers.

Read more…

Uncategorized

Solidarity Forever Singalong

I have always loved musicals. When I was younger, I remember watching the musical Newsies, a movie about a group of young newspaper workers calling for fair treatment in response to new restrictions by newspaper giant Joseph Pulitzer that make it harder for them to earn money. I would belt out “Pulitzer may own the world but he don’t own us” along with my favorite characters. Through song, the characters illustrate what collective bargaining and organizing can be.

In addition, I remember loving Billy Elliot when I first saw it with my family. The scene when Billy’s family members were all marching on strike along with other coal miners was particularly striking for me.  “Solidarity, solidarity, solidarity forever. We’re proud to be working class, solidarity forever,” the coal miners sing. Though they were not the protagonists of the musical, I felt sympathetic to the coal miners’ experiences. How could these workers be experiencing this unjust treatment?

Read more…

Uncategorized

The Taxing Challenge of Lifting Americans Out of Poverty

Our Jewish values encourage us to advocate for systems that can lift people out of poverty. Jewish history also provides us with an example for helping the needy. During Talmudic times, much of tzedakah (justice) was done though tax-financed, community-run programs that helped those in needed, paralleling the entitlement security that we fight for and continue to fight for today. Through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), we can help provide for individuals in need through the tax system, a structure already in place. We need to ensure that this benefit does not just exist, but that the benefits will lift families out of poverty.

Read more…

Uncategorized

Combatting Injustices in the Public School System

Although it is summer, as stationary stores and commercials tell us, it’s already time to start thinking about the fall and what the school year brings along with it. As we sharpen pencils and preemptively pack our backpacks, it’s hard not to take a moment to reflect on why we go through this ritual every year. Education is seen as a pathway to the American dream, and is key to lifting Americans out of poverty.

About 20% of our country’s children live in poverty, and this rate is further exacerbated when looking at children of color. 38% of African American children, 36.8% of American Indian and Native Alaskan Children, and 33% of Hispanic children are living in poverty, showing how disproportionately certain communities are impacted. For all children, education is especially crucial to create opportunities, but for many students of color, this promise is not necessarily their reality. A child of color is over twice as likely to be poor as a white child. Millions of students go to schools that are underfunded and that lack important resources. Schools where the majority of students are African American are two times as likely to have teachers who are less experienced than a school with a majority of white teachers, which therefore leads to even more inequalities in the classroom.

Read more…

Uncategorized
Workers protesting low wages with a sign saying "Hard work deserves fair pay!"

Learning from the Past to Create a More Economically Just Future

In this week’s Torah portion, Devarim (and the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy), Moses begins his recounting of the Israelites’ forty-year-long journey in the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:1-21). Moses’ reflection on the past as the Israelites’ time of wandering comes starts to end offers a timely lesson for us to take stock of where we are in our journey towards economic justice.

Read more…

Uncategorized

Voting Matters, Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall

The first election that I can remember, I was four years old and I was accompanying my dad to go vote for our state representative and for our member of Congress. He brought me into the voting booth and I helped him pull down the levers as together we voted for who would represent our district. It all came full circle when I went to the city hall in Newton, Massachusetts to register to vote as soon as I turned 18, when I led voter registration efforts in college or when my dad and I went to my former elementary school to vote this past November. Through voting, I could be actively engaged in the political process and participate in the most basic right (and rite!) of democracy.

Read more…

Uncategorized
<