Today is Human Rights Day, celebrated worldwide on the anniversary of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration includes 30 articles, including the right to education, freedom from slavery, and equality under law has been used as a basis for international treaties against discrimination, on behalf of the rights of women and, perhaps most notably on Human Rights Day 2014, the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT). Read more…
As we approach the joyful holiday season, it is important to remember the challenges that so many across the world continue to face. Malaria, which is transmitted from the bite of a single mosquito, causes 200 million illnesses per year and kills more than 600,000 people, most of whom are children under the age of five. Jewish tradition teaches us that human life is sacred because all of humanity is created b’tselem Elohim, in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Thus, we must make sure to treat each life with equal value, and fight this disease that is both treatable and preventable.
This past weekend, hundreds of Jewish high school students arrived in Washington, D.C. for the Religious Action Center’s first L’Taken Social Justice seminar of 2014-2015. After a weekend of learning about a wide range of social justice and political issues, ranging from homelessness to disability rights, the students spend Monday lobbying on Capitol Hill on an issue that resonated with them. While preparing for the Monday lobby visits, I was touched by the many personal stories that students who were lobbying on embryonic stem cell research shared. These stories to me emphasized the importance of cementing the current federal rules regarding embryonic stem cell research into law.
By Cantor Ross Wolman
In this week’s parashah, Vayeishev, we read the story of Tamar’s struggle in the house of Judah (Genesis 38). Tamar marries Judah’s eldest son and he dies. Through the biblical law of levirate marriage, she is obligated to marry his younger brother so that his name may continue. When that brother dies, Tamar must marry another younger brother but Judah is reluctant to send her to him as two of his sons have died while married to her.
Time passes, Judah’s wife dies, and Tamar takes cunning action. She hears Judah is away from home and she dresses seductively as a prostitute, disguising her identity. Judah lays with Tamar and she becomes pregnant. He gives her his seal and cord (like an ID) as collateral until she receives payment.
Earlier today at a press conference at the National Press Club, the 90 Million Strong Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty was launched. Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism spoke on behalf of the Reform Movement, which has long advocated for the abolition of the death penalty and reform of the criminal justice system. Here is Barbara’s statement from this morning: Read more…
It’s easy to talk about global warming when it’s sweltering hot outside and everyone is sweating during the summer, especially in a summer like 2014, which was the hottest ever on record. Once we’re all bundled up in gloves and scarves, drinking hot tea, it’s a little harder to be heard when you’re talking about how global temperatures and rising quickly and dangerously. Just because it’s seasonally colder out doesn’t mean that climate change is less of a global disaster.
Tomorrow, Senator Durbin is holding a final hearing for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. The Senator’s goal for the hearing is to assess what has been accomplished in recent years and what still needs to be done on key civil and human rights issues. The RAC has submitted written testimony to show the strength of our community’s interest in the topics the subcommittee works on. Our testimony covers a number of the important issues including voting rights, criminal justice and sentencing reform, the death penalty, hate crimes, and more. Read more…
In the midterm elections last month, when we saw successful votes to increase the minimum wage in four states (Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Nebraska).
- Nebraskans voted on a measure to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $8/hour in 2015 and $9/hour in 2016.
- In Alaska, voters approved raising the state’s minimum wage from $7.75/hour to $8.75/hour for 2015 and then to $9.75/hour for 2016. The bill would also index the minimum wage to ensure that it kept up with future increases in the cost of living.
- On November 4, Arkansas votedto increase the state’s minimum wage to $7.50/hour in 2015, to $8.00/hour in 2016, and to $8.50/hour in 2017.
- Additionally, in South Dakota,voters supported a measure to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $8.50/hour.
It is exciting that all of these measures were approved and the Reform Movement applauded these efforts at the state level. Read more…