Rabbi Beth Singer marching with the Torah

We March in the Footsteps of the Great Figures of Our Tradition



Our Jewish tradition is full of journeys, from the very beginning of our sacred texts. Adam and Eve’s exile from the Garden of Eden; Noah’s Ark and his aquatic sojourn – while these are not explicit commandments from God, they are journeys for these Biblical figures. Later, in parashat Lech Lecha (literally, “go” or “leave”), God commands Abraham “go from your land … to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 17:27). Later on, we read of Moses’ journey from Egypt to Midian, back to Egypt, and then his leadership of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt and the subsequent wandering in the desert for forty years before entering the Promised Land. Ruth leaves Moab with Naomi to a new land, Israel, where she is a stranger, and finds a new life. Over the course of millennia, Jewish individuals and the Jewish people have journeyed, whether by choice, whether by command from God, whether by necessity due to forced exile, anti-Semitism or more modern crises, such as the pogroms.

Journeys, both literal and figurative, are familiar to us as Jews. Journeys are not easy, and the miles walked and the distances covered illustrate for us the challenges and struggles of the time.

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Anti-nuclear sign

Remembering the 70th Anniversary of Nagasaki, Looking at Nonproliferation Today



Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, the last time a nuclear weapon was used as a war tactic against people, almost entirely civilians. The blast left 60,000-80,000 dead within a few days, with tens of thousands injured suffering crippling injuries from radiation and tens of thousands more hurt from radiation poisoning. The anniversary of the bombings provide an opportunity to reflect on the destruction the nuclear weapons caused in the immediate aftermath and over the years, from heart-wrenching photos of survivors in the first days, weeks and months after the bombings, to the scars that will not ever truly fade away – both in Japan and throughout the global community. Read more…

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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