Jewish tradition teaches us that our bodies and the preservation of our health is above all the most cherished value. God bestowed onto us the opportunity for life and prosperity and we have to obligation to treat our bodies with the utmost care and respect. We see this value reflected in the current U.S healthcare system.
Today is National Voter Registration Day. Over the course of the day, volunteers, celebrities, and organizations across the country will hit the streets in a coordinated effort to educate and register eligible voters. The goal of the day is to reach tens of thousands of voters who might not otherwise get the information they need. In 2008, six million Americans didn’t vote due to a missed registration deadline or lack of information on how to register. National Voter Registration Day hopes to put political differences aside and celebrate democracy, unifying the American people. Read more…
Yesterday I was one of over 310,000 people to march across Manhattan the weekend before the UN Climate Summit with the People’s Climate March. Together, we asked our leaders both domestically and internationally to support a strong, global commitment to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the most vulnerable communities worldwide from the devastating effects of climate change. The march included a broad swath of people from environmental, labor, scientific and faith communities. In the hours leading up to the March, Reform Jews stood side by side with Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, Unitarians, Southern Baptists, seekers and pagans for an interfaith prayer service. On a stage propped up in front of an inflatable mosque and an interfaith arc, we watched Rabbi Arthur Waskow give a benediction, Josh Nelson and Neshama Carlebach lead a niggun, monks, preachers, imams and priests all provide blessing in their traditions for the march, the UN Summit leaders, and the earth.
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.”
On Sunday, April 13, 2014, just before Passover began, Fraizer Glenn Cross opened fire outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, killing Dr. William Lewis Corporon and his grandson Reat Griffin Underwood. Corporon was accompanying Underwood to auditions for the KC SuperStar singing competition, which were held at the JCC that day. Cross opened fire again at Village Shalom, a Jewish old age home about a mile away, killing Terri LaManno, an occupational therapist who was visiting her mother. After being taken into custody, Cross yelled, “Heil Hitler.”
Campaign finance reform is an immense and complex issue, but the principles behind it are simple: one voice, one vote. In the wake of two major Supreme Court cases, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010) and McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission (2014), advocates for fair elections are seeking to reverse the effects of these decisions by enacting new laws to limit campaign contributions and expenditures.
In 2011, months after the Citizens United decision, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced a Senate joint resolution to propose a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to limit campaign contributions and expenditures. The resolution saw little action until recently, when the Senate voted to block the amendment, a move that demonstrates continued disregard for the core principle of equality that should guide our elections and civic participation. Constitutional amendments are a long, slow process in the United States; recall the ongoing fight for the Equal Rights Amendment. But the process has not discouraged legislators and advocates from seeking lasting solutions and permanent reform.
As Jews, we must heed the warnings of our ancient texts that speak to the dangers of mixing money and politics (Deuteronomy 16:19). We are also commanded to stand up for the widow, the poor, the orphan and the stranger. In the words of former Commission on Social Action director Leonard Fein, of blessed memory, Jews have always acted on the belief that both our moral obligations and our self-interest require “a politics that speaks to the needs of those who have been left out or left behind, a politics of inclusion.” It is the poor and the immigrant who are ignored in a system where the currency that matters most is money rather than ideas. It is the poor who suffer when policy decisions are made by those who are dependent on the small percentage of the population that supplies the largest percentage of campaign contributions. Looking ahead to the November elections and beyond, it is imperative that we ensure every voter’s voice is truly equal, neither amplified nor silenced by outsized campaign contributions.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is an opportunity for us to express our support for important government programs as we look towards the year ahead. In the next year, Congress will need to address issues regarding reauthorization for child nutrition programs. While the programs are permanently authorized, Congress uses the reauthorization process to review the laws and re allocate funding when the laws expire. One existing law in this policy area – the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – is set to expire on September 2015.
As we finish up the last full week of our Jewish year, it’s been typically hopping at the RAC. Our program team of Michael Namath, Shira Zemel, Daniel Landesberg and Ariella Yedwab spent three days at the URJ’s Kutz Camp brainstorming, role-playing and case-studying along with the URJ’s Youth Division Staff, all with an eye to making our many youth-oriented RAC programs (L’Taken, Machon Kaplan, etc.) even better than they already are. Back here in DC, the LAs were zipping around from congressional hearings to mark-ups to meetings to briefings on Israel, voting rights, religious freedom and more.