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Goodbye from the LAs

Today the five Eisendrath Legislative Assistants say goodbye after an amazing year representing the Union for Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. We have worked on nearly 70 different legislative issues, represented the RAC in countless coalitions, seen some bills signed into law and others tragically defeated, said goodbye to one Congress and welcomed the next. All in all it has been an incredible year.

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Pursuing Justice for Military Women

Earlier this week, President Obama stood in front of a group of Marines and declared: “It undermines what this military stands for and what the Marine Corps stands for when sexual assault takes place within our units.” He couldn’t be more correct. Unfortunately, the safety of our soldiers and the integrity of our military risks being undermined by a system that permits or fails to adequately punish sexual assault. A Pentagon report released earlier this year estimated that there were 26,000 military sexual assaults last year. Just weeks later, the Air Force official in charge of the sexual assault prevention programs was arrested for sexual assault. And shortly thereafter, an army sergeant working in their sexual assault prevention office was investigated for similar charges.

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Immigration Reform and the High Holidays

This week marks the start of the Jewish month of Elul, the month that precedes Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The start of Elul is often used as a sign that it’s time to begin high holiday preparation in earnest. This preparation takes many forms – soulful introspection, last minute ticket buying, frantic menu planning. At the RAC, we use this time to think about what social justice challenges we had this year we must atone for, and what opportunities we have moving forward to do better.

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Immigration Sermon Round-Up

Next week marks the start of Elul, the Jewish month leading up to the high holidays. Traditionally, Elul is filled with many practices and rituals designed at achieving introspection and reflection in preparation for the high holidays. However, for the rabbis in our midst, Elul signifies something much more urgent: the approaching deadline for high holiday sermons.

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Contraception Availability Under the ACA Starts Today

For months, we have been writing about contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. It has been a long rulemaking process, but it looks as though today is finally the day. According to President Obama’s website, “starting August 1st, many insurance plans will be required to fully cover birth control without co-pays or deductibles as part of women’s preventive care.” As we wrote in our press statement following the Administration’s announcement of the final rule,

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Cuts Across America

Seeing Sequestration – How Budget Cuts Affect Native Americans

This week’s Torah portion begins with a command – “re-eh!” “See!” Moses instructs the Israelites to see what is in front of them, to observe their situations, to notice God’s presence in their lives. You would think that seeing is something that we do automatically – that we wouldn’t have to be reminded to do by someone else. But unfortunately, this is not the case. Sometimes we do indeed have to be reminded – even commanded – to really look and see what is happening around us.

In too many instances, we as Americans have collectively chosen not to “see” the effects our lives and lifestyles have on those around us. This comes at the expense of others, often the most vulnerable, in our community. In particular, Native Americans have historically and repeatedly suffered from the effects of government policies or projects. This year, we have seen a horrifying example of this trend with sequestration.

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House Passes Controversial Education Bill

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act, which is an updated version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act bill (formerly known as the No Child Left Behind Act) that outlines all of America’s federal education policies. Unfortunately, the bill’s reception has been almost as muddled as its ever-changing name; it was condemned by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and opposed by advocacy organizations including the National Education Association.

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Real Sex Ed Saves Lives

Sexuality Education in California High Schools

This past weekend, the RAC staff had the opportunity to spend time with students participating in the Urban Mitzvah Corps program. Programs like UMC and L’Taken are always a refreshing way for us at the RAC to interact with high school students – and, importantly, to once again become conversant in the most up-to-date social media platforms and teen fashion trends.

This weekend, though, I viewed our experiences slightly differently in light of a recent study about teen pregnancy rates in my home state of California. In 1991, there were 70.9 births for every 1,000 teens aged 15-19 in California. This is approximately equivalent to an average of 17 students from every L’Taken weekend. In 2011, this number was down to 28 births for 1,000 teens – a 20-year low. The most encouraging part? This drop was attributed to expanded sex education programs.

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