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Marriage Equality and the RAC

A “Shehecheyanu” Moment

It’s been more than a year since I left behind the Religious Action Center in Washington for the not-really-greener pastures of the Union’s headquarters in New York.  I have always been a political junkie, and many of my friends and colleagues ask me still if I miss the politics.  The honest answer is: no.  I spent 15 years representing the Reform Movement on Capitol Hill, and I would not give up a day of it for anything.  But sometimes too much of a good thing is just, well, too much.  So I happily left Washington behind, and threw myself into my new job.

Until yesterday.
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Yasher Koach, Carolyn Kunin

Today, after over 20 years of remarkable service, we are saying farewell to one of our Movement’s most effective social activists: Carolyn Kunin, the longtime Director of Programming and Advocacy of Women of Reform Judaism.

I’m well aware that some readers will be thinking, “Who is Carolyn Kunin?” But anyone who has been involved with WRJ or the Commission on Social Action knows the answer to that – she is an organizer par excellence, the quintessential social action staff person. I don’t remember ever seeing Carolyn speak at a press conference or give a plenary address at a convention. I have no doubt that she would have done an outstanding job doing so, but her work was different. She was the one behind the scenes, the one who knew just who to invite to speak, the one who knew what issue would resonate most powerfully, the one who knew – always – what questions to ask.

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Detroit's Brush Park

Detroit: Because We Could Not Stay Away

As the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism gathers for its twice yearly meeting in Detroit, MI, a few of you have asked me – and I’ve overheard more of you asking one another: — “Why are we here in Detroit?” Read more…

RAC’s Take on GOP Response to SOTU

As promised, a few reactions to the GOP Response to the State of the Union by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels to go along with the rest of our SOTU coverage (see RAC Legislative Director Barbara Weinstein’s reactions and the Eisendrath Legislative Assistants’ response for more on last night’s festivities):

Responding to the State of the Union is a difficult task, and very few have distinguished themselves in that role over the years.  Last night, Gov. Daniels gave one of the better responses I have heard.

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Jim Besser: Thanks for 24 Great Years!

logo.pngToday we have the final column by the New York Jewish Week’s Washington Correspondent Jim Besser. Jim has been on this beat for 24 years and, I suppose, has earned the right to enjoy the next chapter(s) of his life. I have (gulp!) been with Jim on his whole 24 year-long ride, and am having a time imaging a week without a call that begins, “Hey it’s Besser. What are you working on?”

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Joining Debbie’s Mourners: An Online Community

It never occurred to that I would sit in front of my computer that afternoon and cry.

I’m at an age where I’ve been to many – too many – funerals. I’m not usually much of crier. But something about the experience of sitting in my home office watching the live stream of Debbie Friedman’s funeral was astonishingly powerful.

No small part of that, of course, is thinking about what she, and her music, meant to me over the years. Debbie, who I knew only casually, was a powerful, inspirational force of a person. Hearing her music sung, and knowing that she will not sing it again, was so painful. I was moved by the beauty of the music, the artistry of the performers, and the eloquence of the speakers.

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Welcoming The New Congress; Marking An Anniversary

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Today is an interesting day here in D.C. – the first day of the 112th Congress. Yes, only in Washington do we measure time in “Congresses” rather than, say, years like normal people. 
The first day of a new Congress is a strange cross between the first day of school and having two dozen graduation parties to go to on the same day. People are excited to see each other, there are a bunch of “new kids,” and everyone serves food. Members host receptions, usually in their offices, and it is a generally festive day. Many RAC staffers are on the Hill today, meeting new members and their staffs, touching base with other offices, and, undoubtedly eating more cheese and crackers than are good for them. 

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An Excuse for Bigotry

Our community learned a long time that Anti-Semitism can surface even where there are no Jews. In fact, the absence of a local Jewish community has often fueled such hatred, since those who might be inclined to such thinking do not have any personal experience with “real live Jews” to offset the popularly-received stereotypes.

So I guess it’s not a surprise than anti-Muslim animus is flourishing in the United States, especially, it seems, in places with almost no Muslims. As Roger Cohn reports from Perry, Oklahoma in this great New York Times op-ed, “You might not expect Shariah, a broad term encompassing Islamic religious precepts, to be a priority topic at the Kumback [diner] given that there’s not a Muslim in Perry and perhaps 30,000, or less than one percent of the population, in all Oklahoma. And you’d be wrong.”

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