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new legislative assistants, Rachel, Jordan, Liya, Melanie, Claire, Jonathan

A New Year for the New Legislative Assistants: Our Reflections on 5775

Last month, the six of us began our new year as Eisendrath Legislative Assistants, complete with apples and honey, a RAC tradition to mark our office “Rosh Hashanah.” After two weeks of orientation and several weeks of familiarizing ourselves with our new portfolios, we are looking forward to the Jewish New Year and excited for the opportunities it will bring:

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NYC UN Climate Summit

UN Summit a Meaningful Opportunity to Impact Climate Change 

In advance of the UN Climate Summit beginning tomorrow, Barbara Weinstein, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Director of the Commission on Social Action, issued the following statement:

“We are pleased to join with others in the environmental, scientific and faith communities in urging our domestic and international leaders this week to make a strong commitment to curbing climate change and its effects. This past weekend, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis were proud to partner with HUC-JIR and Reform congregants and congregations from the greater New York area and beyond to be part of the 300,000-plus who participated in the People’s Climate March to express our shared commitment to achieving a solution to the current climate crisis.

As people of faith, blessed to live in a nation with the resources and ability to be a climate leader, we have a moral obligation to address the devastation of climate change that is already wreaking havoc on the air we breathe, water we drink and earth that sustains us. Yet only with a concerted international commitment to tackling this challenge can we ensure that we pass on a healthy earth as we pass on our sacred traditions l’dor v’dor, from one generation to the next. We must act in particular for the sake of the most vulnerable – the sick, children, the elderly and others living in communities ill-equipped to respond to the increasing instances of flooding, drought, food shortages, and disease associated with climate change.

We look forward to this week’s summit renewing the global commitment to stemming climate change and to meaningful engagement from individuals, corporations, communities, and nations.”

Ferguson, statement from Barbara Weinstein

Urgent Need for Justice and Peaceful Resolution of Unrest in Ferguson

Washington, D.C., August 20, 2014 - In response to the unrest in Ferguson, MO, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We, like so many across the U.S. and indeed the world, have watched the unrest in Ferguson, MO with heavy hearts and deep concern. Though the investigations into the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer are ongoing and assessments about both the public’s reaction and law enforcement’s response are essential, what is already clear is that in Ferguson, the relationships between law enforcement, public officials and community members have been terribly damaged by mistrust. At the same time, persistent and widening economic inequality has also contributed to deep communal frustration.

Sadly, these circumstances are not unique to Ferguson. The challenges of racial divides and mistrust that afflict communities across the U.S. are a tragic emblem of how much work remains to be done to overcome divisions rooted in our nation’s history and the persistence of racial and ethnic disparities. As the gap between the rich and the poor widens in America, these economic inequalities are having a detrimental effect on communities where opportunities are shrinking every day.

Efforts to remedy these challenges require both short- and long-term commitments. Law enforcement must swiftly, fully and justly investigate the circumstances of Michael Brown’s death even while respecting and protecting the rights of community members who wish to assemble peacefully and express themselves. Communal relationships must be strengthened and we are encouraged that so many Reform congregations, including those in and around St. Louis, are engaged in such interfaith and inter-coalitional efforts. We are proud of our synagogue members and rabbis who have participated in, and supported efforts to keep peaceful, the protests that have taken place in Ferguson. As a Movement, we stand with them and will continue to advocate for policies and practices that address the scourge of racial profiling while promoting opportunity for all. We also continue to work to address those policies that have contributed to the growing economic inequality nationwide with the goal of ensuring that Americans in every community have the foundations they need and the opportunities they deserve to achieve the American Dream.

all five legislative assistants 2013-2014

An Open Letter from the 2013-2014 Eisendrath Legislative Assistants

Today is our last day as legislative assistants at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. None of us imagined on August 20, 2013 – our very first day – that this year would have gone by so fast. It is has been an incredible honor to serve and represent our vibrant, passionate Movement in Washington, D.C.; one that we will cherish always.

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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.”

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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.

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