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Al Vorspan

Honoring 50 years of the Civil Rights Act

On Wednesday, July 2, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Reform Movement played an instrumental role in the civil rights movement including helping to draft (in the Religious Action Center’s very own Sillins Conference Room) both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which will also turn 50 next year.  Read more…

Rabbi Rick Jacobs on CNN

Presbyterian Church (USA) Divestment FAQs

This series of FAQs from the Union for Reform Judaism can serve as a guide for congregations and leadership to discuss the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s recent vote to divest from certain companies doing business in and with Israel.

What happened last week in Detroit?

The Presbyterian Church (USA) met last week in Detroit, MI, for its annual General Assembly (GA). Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, spoke there in opposition to a number of resolutions that supported divestment from companies doing business in and with Israel.

What did Rabbi Jacobs say to the GA?

In his remarks in Detroit, Rabbi Jacobs spoke of the important relationships between many Reform congregations and Presbyterian churches. He spoke of the need for continued and strengthened efforts together and said to the Assembly, “You can choose partnership and engagement or you can choose separation and divestment.”

Read more…

Working Families Liveblog: Double Booked at the White House Summit

Today, the White House’s summit on Working Families is helping elevate a conversation we have been fostering here at the RAC through our Double Booked initiative. As our deputy director Rachel Laser indicated in her post last week, this series “has lifted up unique and diverse moral voices and personal stories around working families issues – starting a conversation about policy and cultural changes we need in our country that would benefit not only working families, but also workplaces and our broader national community.”

Stay tuned as we share live updates from the Summit, where some 40 moral leaders and advocates are ensuring a strong faith and Jewish presence in this important dialogue.

Reform CA Wander No More

Reform CA: Victory for Affordable Homes and the Environment

The following statement was released today by Reform California:

As leaders of Reform CA, an initiative of the California Reform Jewish Movement for justice, we are overjoyed by the bold decision of our state leadership to invest significant and long-term cap-and-trade funding into the building of affordable homes near transit in California.

Rabbi Stephanie Kolin, Co-Director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Just Congregations and Lead Organizer of Reform CA, stated:

“In the book of Genesis, the protection of the earth is placed in our hands.  And as a Jewish people whose central narrative is that of wandering without a place to call home, we have a fundamental responsibility to address the suffering that comes when one who seeks shelter can find none.  It is with this dual responsibility in mind that we have come together on this issue as Reform Jews from every corner of California to turn our faith into action.”

Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman, a resident of Sacramento and Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, added:

“Building these homes will help reduce the number of miles traveled by cars on our state’s roads and highways by over one hundred million miles each year. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions will be significant, as will be the impact on the lives of so many of California’s hard working families who struggle to afford their rent or mortgage.”

To campaign for this decision, Reform CA leaders traveled to Sacramento to meet with over 30 legislators and the Governor’s office. Local clergy and lay leaders also campaigned in their home districts and sent over 700 letters to Assembly Members and Senators. In addition, 55 California rabbis and cantors signed a petition to Governor Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins. Dozens of Reform rabbis preached about this issue from their pulpits, making spiritual and moral calls to address California’s urgent need for affordable homes and a healthy environment.

We applaud the courageous leadership of Governor Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, as well as our state legislature, including Senate President Pro Tempore Elect Kevin de León.  Today is a great day for California — and for our children, our grandchildren, and the many generations that will follow as we take another step closer to the California of our dreams.

Supreme Court

Reform Movement Condemns Supreme Court Legislative Prayer Ruling

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We are deeply disappointed by today’s Supreme Court decision in Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway, upholding sectarian prayer before a legislative session. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that requiring invocations be nonsectarian would call on the legislatures sponsoring these prayers and the courts to intervene and “act as supervisors and censors of religious speech.” Yet, Justice Kennedy did suggest there were limits to such prayers, among them: denigrating non-believers or religious minorities, threatening damnation, or preaching conversion — leaving courts in exactly the same role as line-drawers.  The record has shown that the overwhelming majority of prayers offered were Christian. That is why we were pleased to join an amicus brief to the Court, opposing the constitutionality of the town of Greece’s practices, along with a diverse array of faith and religiously-affiliated groups.

An individual’s religious belief – or non-belief – ought not be a prerequisite to accessing the political process. The Greece v. Galloway decision undermines the fundamental American principle of equal participation in government, regardless of the faith of the individual.

For more information on the RAC’s views on the separation of church and state and religion in the public sphere, contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Sarah Greenberg or visit our Religious Liberties web portal.

Reform Leader Responds to New Reports of Anti-Semitism in Ukraine

In response to reports of demands that Jewish residents of Donetsk, Ukraine register with the government and pay fees or risk serious penalties, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement: Read more…

Bashana haba’ah, In the New Year to Come (Part 2)

As we close the book on 2013 and turn to welcome a new year, the 2013-2014 Eisendrath Legislative Assistants are wrapping up their first four months at the Religious Action Center, filled with challenges, successes, new adventures, numerous trips to Starbucks and a lot of fun! Looking towards the next weeks and months, a new year, the LA’s compiled a little “wish-list” for what they hope our nation can achieve. If you missed it, you can read part 1 here.

Howie Levine

The Minimum Wage Fairness Act would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and give 30 million Americans a raise. Working full time on the current minimum wage is not enough to keep even a family of two above the poverty line, but this legislation would give an opportunity to a minimum wage worker to support a family of three above the poverty line—not ideal, but better than the status quo. Read more…

Bashana haba’ah, In the New Year to Come

As we close the book on 2013 and turn to welcome a new year, the 2013-2014 Eisendrath Legislative Assistants are wrapping up their first four months at the Religious Action Center, filled with challenges, successes, new adventures, numerous trips to Starbucks and a lot of fun! Looking towards the next weeks and months, a new year, the LA’s compiled a “wish-list” for what they hope our nation can achieve. Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow.

Sarah Greenberg

In 2014, it is my wish that all women around the world can access a safe, legal, and affordable abortion if they so chose–we must repeal the Hyde Amendment, bans on abortion after arbitrary periods in gestation, restrictive parental notification laws and all other laws on waiting periods and preliminary steps before an abortion (even if they aren’t cost-prohibitive, are certainly time-prohibitive.) In practice, these laws disproportionately affect low-income women who cannot afford the procedure, nor take time off of work. Reproductive freedom is not only a “woman’s issue, ”but rather it is an “everyone issue”–decisions around family planning are about families, a woman’s self-determination and her equality. Read more…

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