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Weather or Not: Here Climate Change Comes

Part of our job as legislative assistants, in addition to staying on top of policy and doing direct lobby visits, is to help Reform Jews – from high school students with us for the L’Taken Social Justice Seminars to rabbis and congregational lay leaders attending Consultation on Conscience – speak to the offices of their elected officials.

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Equality Act introduction

From the Equality Act of 1974 to the Equality Act of 2015: Protecting LGBT People from Discrimination

On July 23, 2015, I had the opportunity to join the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Deputy Director, Rachel Laser, at the Capitol Building for a press conference for the introduction of the Equality Act.

The Equality Act (H.R. 3185/S. 1858) would amend existing civil rights legislation in order to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, federal funding, education, credit, and jury selection based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity and prohibit sex discrimination in public accommodations and federal funding. The bill and its introduction were historic in many ways, especially since the LGBT community has focused on just federal employment non-discrimination protections for the past two decades.

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

The 2014-15 LAs Say Goodbye

The legislative assistant offices at the RAC have a strange feel to them today—all of the zany pictures and decorations adorning our desks have been removed, the usual desktop clutter has vanished and there is a strong scent of cleaning solution flowing through the air. After 50 weeks at the RAC, it’s our last day, and an opportunity for us to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve witnessed during our time here. Read more…

The Arrogance of Inaction

By Jonah Baskin

In this week’s parsha, parshat Eikev, Moses continues his final speech to the Israelites before they enter the land, much of which is devoted to admonishments to remember the mitzvot and the various punishments for failure to comply.  Moses cautions the Israelites not to forget that God ultimately ensures their prosperity, “lest when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses, and live within them, and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that is yours is multiplied… you will say in your heart: ‘My own power and the might of my own hand have produced this wealth for me.’” (Deuteronomy, 8:12-17) This caution against arrogance is interesting because it represents a unique strain of the vice that is easy to forget about.  Read more…

Moving Forward: Sh’nat Ha-Evel for Michael Brown, and 50 Years after the VRA

This weekend marks one year since Michael Brown was shot and killed in the street by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. As we take this moment to reflect on the past year, I am reminded of the Jewish tradition’s unique way of coping with death, to help mourners gradually reenter into normal life after the death of a loved one. Read more…

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.

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Coal Plants

Reform Movement Hails Clean Power Plan

Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency released its final rule for the Clean Power Plan, which requires states to significantly reduce carbon emissions through regulating coal power plants along with other mitigation strategies. The plan is expected to cut carbon emissions in the United States by up to 30%, making it a significant move to mitigate climate change in parallel with other greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies like regulating heavy duty vehicles and limiting methane. The rule is likely to shift conversations in some states from coal and other non-renewable fossil fuel resources to clean, renewable energy like wind and solar power. In announcing this historic rule, President Obama said: “Climate change is no longer just about the future that we’re predicting for our children or our grandchildren; it’s about the reality that we’re living with every day, right now.”

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US Senator Chuck Schumer and Comedian Amy Schumer at Podium

Far from a Trainwreck: When a Senator and a Comedian Join Forces

I remember going to a movie for the first time after the Aurora shooting. I don’t remember what movie I saw, but I do remember a strong desire to sit in the back row, so that if there were gunfire, I would be facing the right direction to see what was going on. When I saw that the back row was full, I took a nervous glance behind me, putting shaky trust in those sitting behind me to preserve my safety. The lights dimmed and the movie started, and I quickly became engrossed in the movie and forgot about my fear. Soon enough, the lights came on, and I walked out unharmed. Read more…

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