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 weekend, our second class our joint Malaria Fellowship with the United Nations Foundation will come to DC to learn about malaria and advocate on Capitol Hill. Fellows will return to campus with tools to raise awareness and funds and begin their advocacy push with letters and calls to Congress, making sure our Representatives continue to fully fund anti-malaria initiatives. Throughout the year, our fellows will build out a core group of students and organizations to help save lives from malaria.
Earlier today, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued two new items of guidance regarding the Ebola crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The first guidance offers special relief for leave-based donation programs to aid Ebola victims in the aforementioned countries. The other guidance names the Ebola outbreak in these West African countries a “qualified disaster” for federal tax purposes.
The leave-based donation guidance would allow employees to donate their paid vacation, sick or personal leave and employers will make cash payments to tax-exempt organizations that are providing relief for the victims of Ebola in Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone. This program will allow for employer cash payments until January 1, 2016. For this period, the donated leave will not be included in the sum of income or wages of the employees. Furthermore, employers will be able to deduct the amount of the cash payment, also a boon for them.
We need only reach back into our ancient Jewish texts to know that throughout our history, it is the youth that carry hope for a promising future: “Your old shall dream dreams, and your youth shall see visions” (Joel 3:1) This February the RAC hopes to translate those visions into action at the Social Justice Advocacy Seminar at 2015 NFTY Convention in Atlanta.
The greatest social change in modern Jewish history was brought about by the youth–the creation of the State of Israel. Zionist youth movements made aliyah in droves in the 1920s to realize a dream of progress, hope and justice. These young pioneers built the infrastructure of the country: they drained the swamps, built the kibbutzim and created the Haganah and Palmach.
This week, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Religious Action Center sent a check for $5,000 to our partners at Nothing But Nets to fund anti-malarial initiatives in Liberia, the country at the heart of the Ebola epidemic. But why fight malaria when Ebola is killing so many?
One of the best parts about my job as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant is constantly meeting people who are passionate advocates for the causes they believe in. Not only do these interactions reinvigorate my optimism for success on the issues I work on, but they also inspire me to learn and engage in new issues too. I had one such experience over the last two days. I showed up to the Nothing But Nets (NBN) Champion Summit on Sunday morning as part of the RAC team working with our Nothing But Nets partnership, seeing my participation in the conference as one of the aspects and responsibilities of our work on this important issue. But Monday afternoon, I left the Hill as an NBN Champion and advocate personally engaged and invested in the fight against malaria. Read more…
A few weeks ago, I dropped my sister off at URJ Camp OSRUI for her fourth year on staff. Like many Jewish children and young adults, summer camp is our home away from home—the two months for which we wait all year. This is the first summer in nearly fifteen years we haven’t been at camp together, and I’ve heckled my sister with all sorts of questions. Did you find your rain gear in duffel bags? How’s the food? Are your campers homesick? And of course: Did you pack enough bug spray for the summer? Read more…
Last Thursday, Rabbi David Saperstein joined a delegation of religious leaders in meeting with Sudan’s Ambassador to the United States, Maowia Khalid. The meeting came shortly after a Sudanese court sentenced Meriam Ibrahim to death for allegedly converting to Christianity. In response to her sentence, Rabbi David Saperstein issued a statement, in which he said: Read more…