Neesh Noosh recipe

Bo: Liberation

By Sarah Newman

This piece is crossposted from Neesh Noosh.

This week, in Bo, the remaining three plagues—locusts, darkness and the death of first-born sons–-are inflicted upon the Egyptians. While Egypt was shrouded in darkness, “all Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings” (Bo, 10: 23).  How, despite the plagues and the continuing hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, did the Israelites live at the precipice of freedom and eventually gain freedom?

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Why I’m on the ARZA Slate

When the ARZA slate for the World Zionist Congress elections was officially announced last week with my name on it, I was humbled. The World Zionist Congress is the democratic body of the Jewish people worldwide that will meet this fall for the first time since 2010, and as a member of the ARZA slate, I will have the opportunity to represent Reform values to the World Zionist Congress and advocate for more funding to programs that promote religious pluralism, equality, and peace in Israel.

Yet aside from being humbled, I thought back to my experience on my Birthright trip three years ago. I remembered my night out in Tel Aviv and my trip to the Western Wall, but the most lasting images are from all those hours I spent on our tour bus, crisscrossing from Haifa to Tiberias to Jerusalem to Beersheva. I remember most strongly the scene as we left Tiberias, driving up the winding roads from Lake Kinneret to the hills beyond. Looking out the window, I saw the yellow-brown grass everywhere, green bushes dotting the landscape and the occasional signpost that listed our location in Hebrew, Arabic and English. The land looked so serene from my seat on the bus, equal parts austere and equal parts welcoming. Read more…

Supreme Court at night

Supreme Court Ruling Upholds Key Religious Freedom Protections

Earlier today, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in Holt v. Hobbs, holding that under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), prisoner Abdul Maalik Muhammed could grow a half-inch beard while incarcerated in Arkansas. This decision upheld the fundamental religious freedom rights of all people, of all backgrounds, and is heartening in light of the current debate over religious exemptions. The Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and Women of Reform Judaism were pleased to join an amicus brief coordinated by American Jewish Committee on the side of Mr. Muhammed. Read more…

photo taken by Task Force on 21st Century Policing

RAC Submits Public Comments to President’s Policing Task Force

The Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which President Obama created by Executive Order in December, convened for the first time on Tuesday, January 13. The first listening session was on “Building Trust and Legitimacy” and included testimony from five different panels of witnesses representing members of the law enforcement community, local politicians and mayors, community representatives and civil society leaders. The Task Force also solicited public comments – see below for an excerpt of the RAC’s comments and click here to read the comments in full. Read more…

High School Student Lobbies Against Torture at L’Taken

Last week, Bailey Roos of Temple Beth El in San Antonio, Texas lobbied her members of Congress in support of the American Anti-Torture Act last introduced in the 112th Congress as part of our L’Taken social justice seminar. In her speech, Bailey talked about her own perception of torture as it related to her Jewish values and her experience visiting Israel last summer: Read more…

President Obama at the State of the Union 2014

#SOTU Preview

On Tuesday night, the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Representatives will stand on the floor of the House chamber and announce to the assembled Members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, Cabinet members, an array of guests in the gallery (including the First Lady and Dr. Biden) and millions of the American people watching live, “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States!” This now-iconic declaration opens the State of the Union ceremony, as the President ascends the dais, hands copies of his speech to the Vice President and the Speaker of the House, and begins his address. Read more…

Gift of Life Logo

Give the Gift of Life this MLK Weekend

This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Va’era, continues the story of the Israelites’ years of bondage in Egypt – which marked the beginning of their sojourn towards freedom. We read about God’s conversation with Moses, who is commanded to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Because the Egyptian ruler, Pharaoh, refuses to oblige with Moses’ demand to let the Israelites go, God sets the plagues upon Egypt. The Israelites’ struggle is long and trying – and ultimately (as we will read in later chapters), they are rewarded with the gift of freedom and entry to the Promised Land. Read more…

Momentum Builds in Support of Paid Leave with Leadership from the President

On Thursday, President Obama announced several new initiatives to benefit America’s working families, especially the over 40 million American workers who do not currently have paid sick days.

President Obama has signed a memo directing federal agencies to provide their employees with six weeks of paid parental leave. In addition, the President has called on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which was introduced in the last Congress by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3). This legislation would allow American workers to earn seven days of paid sick leave and has yet to be reintroduced in the new Congress. Urge your Members of Congress to support paid sick days for working families today! Read more…