We’re nearly halfway through a busy Supreme Court term in which many important cases ranging from affirmative action to recess appointments and from campaign finance to buffer zones at abortion clinics have been heard by the nine justices. More than ever, this term affirms the importance of the Supreme Court in adjudicating the most important social, political (and of course, constitutional!) issues of today.
Today the five Eisendrath Legislative Assistants say goodbye after an amazing year representing the Union for Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. We have worked on nearly 70 different legislative issues, represented the RAC in countless coalitions, seen some bills signed into law and others tragically defeated, said goodbye to one Congress and welcomed the next. All in all it has been an incredible year.
It was an anti-climactic ending for this session in the New York State legislature; the Assembly passed an omnibus Women’s Equality Act (which, among other items, would have protected women’s access to reproductive health care services) but the Senate decided to take up the agenda as individual bills. New Yorkers were highly anticipating debate on fair elections reform based partly on a successful New York City model of public financing for campaigns, but that too was left on the cutting room floor.
So, which bills garnered a vote? What high profile issues got precious debate time? What did the legislature not take up or refuse to consider? Here is Reform Jewish Voice of New York State’s legislative session roundup: Read more…
In Exodus 30, we read that the Israelites must take a census by contributing one half shekel to the Mishkan, or tabernacle. The text tells us explicitly that the rich are not to contribute more, nor the poor less (30:15), for the entire community has an equal stake in supporting and maintaining this national institution (the Mishkan). This census provides us with an important insight into what our Jewish texts tell us about the construction of a political system. The text did not accept that a single voice would be excluded, nor did it accept that one’s voice would have more power, for the dignity of every member of the community had to be upheld.
A few weeks ago, I made my annual trip to Albany as part of Reform Jewish Voice for New York State’s Lobby Day. It may seem unlikely that one voice can make a difference, but I know it can. After visiting Albany for several years in a row, I now know both my elected officials and their staff members – and vice versa. It feels very gratifying to know that several people in the State Capitol know who I am and also know that I represent thousands of Reform Jews in New York.
Earlier this month, RJV hosted its annual Advocacy Day in Albany and with our voices raised as one, we spoke on behalf of New York State’s vibrant Reform Jewish community urging state legislators to support the Women’s Equality Agenda and implement fair election reform. Our actions were noted by legislators, staff and the local press:
- Capitol Confidential (Times Union): Reform Jewish group pushes for women’s agenda
- Capital Tonight (YNN): Here and Now, May 6th
Just one day after RJV was meeting with legislators about the need for fair election reform, the state Assembly passed a public financing bill by a wide margin (88-50). The measure would implement a 6-to-1 public fund matching program similar to the one in New York City. The bill now proceeds to the Senate. If you are a New York resident, you can see how your member of the Assembly voted here and take a moment to send an email to your Senator urging them to support public funding of elections now!
All New Yorkers can also continue to take action on the Women’s Equality Agenda and encourage legislators to support the 10-point plan, especially the provisions intended to safeguard women’s reproductive health decisions and ensure pay equality.
Stand up for Reform Jewish values and discover the intersection of public policy, New York State politics and the Reform Jewish Movement at Reform Jewish Voice of New York State’s annual Advocacy Day!
On Monday, May 6th, join us in Albany to hear from our guest speakers, state Senators Neil Breslin and Andrea Stewart-Cousins and meet with your state legislators about campaign finance reform and the Women’s Equality Agenda, with a particular focus on reproductive health and pay equality.
For all the latest information about Advocacy Day, head over to our Advocacy Day 2013 website and encourage your friends, family and fellow congregants to attend as well! Download a flyer here and spread the word at synagogue; make an announcement at Friday night services, include information in your weekly emails and temple bulletin and reach out to those you think might be interested.
We will prepare you with all the tools you need to become an effective advocate—from prep calls and memos on the issues to lobbying tips, we have everything you need to become an advocate for the Reform Jewish Movement in New York State.
So join us on Monday, May 6th at the State Capitol in Albany to take part in our Movement’s storied tradition of advocacy that stretches from Moses “lobbying” God to students at the RAC’s L’Taken Social Justice Seminar lobbying their elected officials on gun violence prevention measures, reproductive rights and the environment, among others. Register for Advocacy Day here!
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York indulged in the annual right of passage afforded a state executive and delivered his “State of the State” address this afternoon to a crowd of legislators, journalists and politicos in Albany. Just last month he wrote an op-ed for the Times Union outlining his “litmus test” of ten issues the legislature should tackle this year, ranging from education reform and protecting a woman’s right to choose to raising the state minimum wage and campaign finance reform.
These issues have been topics of discussion for the past year in Albany, but ultimately glimmers of progress became few and far in between as the election in November loomed and legislators became increasingly concerned with retaining their seats. But while all of the policy initiatives outlined by the Governor deserve to be accorded time and energy by legislators, the press and advocacy organizations, there is one issue that has skyrocketed to the top of the list. Read more…