Tag Archives: Africa

A Net Gain in Tanzania

In the northwest corner of Tanzania sits the country’s sole refugee camp. Camp Nyarugusu houses nearly 68,000 refugees, mostly from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many have been at the camp since 1996 when the civil war forced them out of their homes. Others are escaping more recent violence, such as the chopping off of albinos’ limbs and grinding the bones into “magic dust” – a practice that became “witchdoctor-approved” for good luck in 2009. Needless to say, many of these men, women and children fled from terrifying violence and came to Tanzania seeking safety. Though the people at Camp Nyarugusu are safe from violence, they are plagued with yet another deadly killer: malaria. Last year alone, in a camp of 68,000 people, there were 62,000 cases of malaria. One woman in the camp has had malaria twenty times and her baby has had the illness three times in the last three months. And before ESPN columnist Rick Reilly’s and NBA superstar Stephen Curry’s trip to Nyarugusu last month, there were no mosquito nets.

The camp desperately needs mosquito nets, and our partners over at the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets have determined that the camp needs 38,000 nets to adequately protect its residents. That’s why we at the Religious Action Center have decided to focus our efforts on this camp, in particular. All nets that our Movement raises will be sent to families in Nyarugusu so that these refugees who are fleeing violence don’t have to face another killer.

Stay tuned as we bring personal stories of families and success stories from the camp to you through RACblog throughout the year. Right now, you can check out Nothing But Nets’ Facebook album with pictures from their trip with Rick Reilly and Stephen Curry.

We’ve set a goal here at the RAC to raise 18,000 nets this year and to send 1,800 letters to Congress so our lawmakers know that this issue is a priority for Reform Jews. We must pursue healing, rodeph refuah, and though 18,000 nets is just under half of what is needed at Nyarugusu, we learn from our ancient Jewish scholars that to save just one life is as if we have saved the entire world.


Nelson Mandela

My Thoughts for Nelson Mandela

For the last few weeks, our eyes have been turned to South Africa as Nelson Mandela remains in critical condition in a Pretoria hospital. We do not expect someone in his nineties to live forever, of course, but at the same time the world still needs this great man. I believe one should say all the important things to loved ones while they can still hear it. It is for that reason I want to use this week’s newsletter to talk about why Madiba (his traditional clan name and a term of endearment) is so important to all of us no matter where we live.
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Nothing But Nets Goes to Camp!

School is out, the weather is hot and mosquitoes are buzzing! This can only mean one thing: Reform Jewish youth across North America are in the final countdown to the opening day of summer camp! As someone who grew up going to camp and then spent many college summers working at Jewish summer camps, each year at this time I get a bit reminiscent of that countdown, of days with friends that seem to last forever, and even of the mosquito bites!

That’s why, as the Program Coordinator at the Religious Action Center, I was excited to work with URJ camps to write and distribute a summer camp program to engage the youth of our Movement with Nothing But Nets. Nothing But Nets, a global, grassroots campaign, raises awareness and funding to fight malaria in Africa. Working on this partnership and writing these camp programs has surely given me a whole new prospective on the notorious mosquito bites I remember getting each summer at camp.

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Last Year in Egypt?

This post is part of our Passover series, in which we think about the application of our age-old Passover story and traditions to the crucial issues we face today. For ways to infuse your seder with social justice, see our holiday guide.

Each year our seders culminate in the same jubilant cry, “Next year in Jerusalem!” Indeed the entire night can be seen as build-up to that promise, a journey toward freedom. But at the same time it is a profound retelling of oppression. We are commanded not only to remember that we were slaves in the land of Egypt, but to tell the story as if it happened to us personally: to say, “This is what the Lord did for me when he brought me out of the land of Egypt.”

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Protect Foreign Affairs from Falling Off the Fiscal Cliff

We all know the talking points by now. Our 24-hour news cycle has covered it constantly – Congress and the Administration are at an impasse over the so-called fiscal cliff. The expiring Bush tax cuts, reaching the debt ceiling, the looming threat of sequestration, finalizing the fiscal year 2013 appropriations bills – these are all pieces of the bigger challenge of our growing national debt. And it’s unclear how Congress will tackle any of these issues before the clock runs out.

What’s at risk in this showdown? Downgrading of the United States’ credit rating. Increased tax rates for all Americans.

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Rabbi Saperstein Urges Congress Not to Balance the Budget on the Backs of the Poorest

Rabbi David Saperstein spoke this morning alongside religious leaders from across the country urging Congress: “Don’t push the poor and most vulnerable off the ‘fiscal cliff.’” Joined by leaders of some of the nation’s most prominent Christian and Muslim organizations, Rabbi Saperstein stressed, “It is simply not acceptable that deficit reduction might increase the burden on those struggling the most in our communities. It is intolerable that debt reduction should come on the backs of the poorest among us, that it increase poverty or inequality.”

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Help Asylum Seekers in Israel

This week we want to shed light on one of the most vulnerable populations in Israel. During the last five to ten years, thousands of asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa have crossed the Sinai Desert to reach Israel, on a perilous and heroic journey, like our own Exodus from Egypt.
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Thinking About a Debt Beyond Our Own

We’ve been hearing a lot recently about the so-called fiscal cliff: that moment, a few weeks off, when massive spending cuts kick in and major tax breaks expire. There has been a lot of frantic talk and heady discussion about how (and whether) America will dig in right now and face the hard facts about our federal deficit and debt.

Amidst all of this it can be easy to ignore the truly crushing debt afflicting countries all across the Global South, and to ignore America’s implications in this crisis and to forget to consider what we could do to help.

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