Last night we celebrated Shemini Atzeret, the last day of Sukkot. As the final day of the fall harvest chag, Shemini Atzeret includes a special prayer for rain called Tefillat Geshem. In the Biblical state of Israel (as opposed to in river-crossed Egypt) rain had incredible significance and was central to the continued viability of Israelite communities. Their gratitude to God for providing rain was necessarily a cornerstone of their religious identity.
In college, I spent a semester working at a London-based Jewish non-profit that focused on development projects within Ukraine’s marginalized Jewish population, and during that semester I found myself learning a great deal about Ukraine and the people who live there. As someone who cares about the people in Ukraine, and as someone who cares about the world around Ukraine, the violence that erupted this summer is scary and depressing. The news was at times hard to believe, from hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians being displaced, to ever-bleaker prospects among the LGBT community there, to the still-unresolved tragedy of the Malaysia Airlines jet being shot down by pro-Russian separatists.
Last Saturday, October 11, was International Day of the Girl. Just two years ago, the UN established this commemorative day to raise awareness about all issues concerning gender inequality for young women and children around the world. The day is used as an opportunity for activist groups to come together with the goal of highlighting, discussing, and taking action to advance rights and opportunities for girls everywhere. Read more…
“When I transitioned, I transitioned into poverty.” This statement by Ruby Corado, a transgender woman who founded a Bilingual Multicultural Drop Inn-Community Center for vulnerable LGBT individuals, highlights the economic and housing hardships many LGBT individuals face. Although LGBT individuals make up a small percentage of the population, 40% of the homeless youth served by agencies that administer homeless services identify as LGBT.
Following an emergency application from reproductive health care providers, the Supreme Court has blocked two key parts of the restrictive Texas law that, since 2012, has forced 32 of the state’s 40 clinics to close their doors to women in need of health care services. In a 6-3 order issued yesterday, the justices blocked provisions of House Bill 2 that mandate clinics to meet strict the building standards of an ambulatory surgical center and that require providing physicians to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Though proponents of the bill insist these provisions enforce a higher standard for protecting women’s health, they are both unnecessary for ensuring healthy procedures and unjustified in the burden they place on Texas women. Read more…
The United States has a problem with mass incarceration. Though our country only makes up 5% of the world’s population, we have 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. One in 99 adults live behind bars, marking the highest rate of imprisonment in American history! One in 31 adults are under some form of correctional control, which includes prison, jail, parole and probation populations. In California this November, voters have an opportunity to change that. Read more…
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, when we devote time and energy to making ourselves and those around us aware of one of the most insidious and silent problems that plagues women, men, and children in this country. Earlier this month on RACblog we discussed how can channel our moral outrage at domestic violence into action and urge our Members of Congress to support the International Violence Against Women Act (H.R. 3571/S. 2307). You may be aware that domestic violence is an issue in this country. You may not know, however, about how crucial the issue of gun violence prevention is to the protection of victims of domestic abuse.
This Friday marks the National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths, which unites tens of thousands of religious congregations and over 200 religious organizations (including the RAC) of a variety of faiths to speak out and act faithfully for justice for children and their families. This weekend, religious congregations will hold special worship services, lead religious education programs as well as other congregational activities that will inspire people of faith to respond to children’s needs and commit to making this a better and safer world for all children. The RAC even helped create the program guide to accompany this important Shabbat event.
Jewish tradition places a great deal of value on the sanctity of children and their welfare. Qe are taught that “by the breath of children God sustains the world” (Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 119b). Since children are the inheritors of the future, we have a responsibility to honor children and to ensure that they will soon have the skills and the strength to be our future leaders. We acknowledge how important it is to ensure that children are well cared for and are healthy.
In July 2013, nearly three million children ate subsidized summer lunch on an average day, and the program only reached one in seven of the low-income children who rely on subsidized school lunch during the school year. In contrast to the 31 million children who received free or reduced school lunch during the school year, this divide illustrates how we need to provide lunch for students who rely on the structure of the school day for their midday meal. Food insecurity is nationwide and has major impacts on children – previous USDA studies have shown that children who live in food-insecure households have increased risks of developmental and health problems. Studies also link growing up in poverty to obesity later on in life, further demonstrating how important it is for us to ensure that children do not go hungry. The bipartisan Summer Meals Act of 2014 (S. 2527) would expand, strengthen, and protect access to the Summer Nutrition Programs, which provide federal funding to serve nutritious foods during the summer break. Tell your Senators to support the Summer Meals Act of 2014 now!
As we conclude Sukkot and look to celebrate Children’s Shabbat, think of how you can answer your faith tradition’s call to honor the children who, like all people, are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This weekend, over our shared days of rest, people of faith are uniting together around our joint goal of ensuring a better future for all children.