On this Children’s Shabbat, We Challenge Ourselves to End Child Hunger in the US



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.

Money in politics

Don’t Be a Bystander When There’s Big Money in Politics



The upcoming midterm elections promise to break records. The Senate race between incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) is on track to be the most expensive Senate contest in American history. For more than a year, experts have predicted that the Kentucky race could be the first for a Senate seat to total more than $100 million in campaign expenditures; spending from both parties suggests these predictions will prove correct. If that is the case, the Grimes-McConnell race will shatter the current record of $82 million set by the high-profile 2012 contest between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown for a Massachusetts Senate seat. Read more…

Pink Ribbon

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Fight over Breast Cancer-Related Patents Continues



Last year, Angelina Jolie made national news after revealing that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy because she had a BRCA1 gene mutation which dramatically increased her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Last week, Myriad Genetics, Inc., a company well known for its breakthrough research showing the connection between BRCA gene mutations and an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer, was at the Federal Circuit defending some of its patents related to the BRCA genes. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes produce proteins which suppress tumors, and consequently people with BRCA mutations are at a greater risk for certain cancers. This case is especially important to Ashkenazi Jews because Jews of Ashkenazi descent are more likely to have harmful BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations than the general public.

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many religious symbols

Religious Freedom Isn’t Just About the Freedom of Belief



New data analysis by the Weekly Number shows that throughout the world, the lack of religious freedom is linked to gender inequality.  Extremist ideologies are often a contributing factor to a dearth of religious freedom and the analysis shows that when there is a lack of respect for a diversity of religious beliefs, gender inequality often results. Read more…

Two Taino women with traditional garments and makeup

Recognizing Both Narratives this Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day



In 1492, just over half a millennium ago, Christopher Columbus set sail on his famous voyage across the Atlantic and opened up the Western Hemisphere for European exploration in the early years of the Renaissance. Many of us have off of school and work today to celebrate that momentous achievement. In school, I remember long history lessons the day before Columbus Day, where I would learn about Columbus’ three ships—the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria—and the incredible impact that Columbus’ landing on the West Indies island of Hispaniola had on the entire world. We talked about how Columbus’ voyage paved the way for a place of religious freedom and tolerance, and of course, the United States.

 

However, we avoided talking about how the indigenous Taíno people were all but wiped out by their encounters with Columbus—up to 85% of their population no longer lived within a couple decades because of smallpox, famine, enslavement, and forced intermarriage. Our teachers shielded us from the historical narrative of the Taíno people, not only their destruction but also the rich culture they had in the Caribbean and their impact on our current society. We never talked about how the names we use to describe so many things in our culture, from “canoe” to “hurricane” to my favorite, “barbecue” came from the Taíno people.

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National Coming Out Day Picture

Create the LGBT-Inclusive Jewish Community I Didn’t Have Growing Up



“I wouldn’t want my child’s rabbi to be gay—it might turn him gay.” This was just one of the many homophobic remarks I heard in my Jewish day school as a closeted gay teen. In my high school, homophobic statements often went unchallenged and the phrase “that’s so gay” was thrown around often. My day school wasn’t exactly a model of inclusion: there was no Gay Straight Alliance during my time there and although one student who had transferred to the school in the middle of high school was out, no one had actually come out during my entire four years there.

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World Mental Health Day Logo

End the Stigma Against Mental Health in Honor of World Mental Health Day



Today marks World Mental Health Day, which is dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues throughout the world. This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is “living with schizophrenia” and will feature efforts around the globe to support people with schizophrenia living a healthy life. As Reform Jews, we have a religious responsibility to open our doors to people with mental illness and to build a supportive, inclusive and nurturing community for people with mental illness.

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On this October 10, let's raise the minimum wage to 10 dollars an hour, and urge your members of congress to raise the wage at rac.org/alerts

On 10/10, Let’s Raise the Minimum Wage to $10.10/Hour



This Friday, it will be October 10th, or 10/10, a timely and unique opportunity for a major campaign to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10/hour, a $2.86/hour increase from its current rate of $7.25/hour.

Over the last forty years, the real value of the minimum wage has fallen by close to 30%, demonstrating a need to raise the wage to account for changing cost values. The 1968 federal minimum wage would be worth over $10/hour in today’s dollars – yet our current minimum wage of $7.25/hour is far below that. Our current minimum wage translates to a lifetime of poverty, not near enough for anyone to live by: in no states can a minimum wage worker afford a two-bedroom apartment working a 40 hour week. Read more…

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