After a historic summer for marriage quality and the decision by the Supreme Court to deny review of seven petitions challenging state bans on same-sex marriage, 32 states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex couples to marry. Although these marriage equality victories helped remove some barriers to same-sex couples looking to start a family, many barriers still exist to same-sex couples—in both marriage equality and non-marriage equality states—that want to raise children.
The crisis at the United States’ southern border, caused by violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle region, has quieted since this summer. The gang violence there still rages on, but due to seasonal factors, the number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum has dropped sharply. After Congress failed to give the governmental organizations stretched by the crisis any additional funding, the slowdown in new arrivals has allowed the House and the Senate to avoid another round of funding debates that would likely end in stalemate.
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.
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…
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is an opportunity for us to express our support for important government programs as we look towards the year ahead. In the next year, Congress will need to address issues regarding reauthorization for child nutrition programs. While the programs are permanently authorized, Congress uses the reauthorization process to review the laws and re allocate funding when the laws expire. One existing law in this policy area – the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – is set to expire on September 2015.
As we approach Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year, we will think about how we have changed from one year to the next: how we have grown, and we can do differently in the year to come. This evaluative work is also done by the federal government through the United States Census (an official count or survey of the population.)
Earlier this week, the U.S. Census Bureau issued its report on Income and Poverty in the United States for the year 2013. This report presents crucial metrics that can be utilized to evaluate the past year’s policies and ultimately improve current ones for the future. This most recent census report showed some signs of positive development. The U.S’ official poverty rate declined from 15.0% in 2012 to 14.5% in 2013, indicating that there has been some reduction in poverty. The poverty rate for children under the age of 18 declined from 21.8% in 2012 to 19.9% in 2013, making 2013 the first time that the child poverty rate has declined since 2000. Read more…
“Whatever valuable information testing mandates provided have been completely overshadowed by the enormous collateral damage inflicted on too many students. Our schools have been reduced to mere test prep factories and we are too-often ignoring student learning and opportunity in America.”- NEA President Dennis Van Roekel
The National Education Association recently hosted the Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly (RA) Conference in Denver, CO. The RA is the primary legislative and policymaking body of the association. The NEA members, reaching nearly 9,000 delegates, voted to launch a Toxic Testing Campaign to bring the focus back to supporting students learning. These delegates, most of whom are teachers themselves, are not against testing to understand student comprehension, but rather the excessive need to test of local, state, national and district levels to evaluate a school or teacher. Many times these tests are not as beneficial to the students as the financial gain for the school.
Washington, D.C., August 20, 2014 – In response to the unrest in Ferguson, MO, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We, like so many across the U.S. and indeed the world, have watched the unrest in Ferguson, MO with heavy hearts and deep concern. Though the investigations into the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer are ongoing and assessments about both the public’s reaction and law enforcement’s response are essential, what is already clear is that in Ferguson, the relationships between law enforcement, public officials and community members have been terribly damaged by mistrust. At the same time, persistent and widening economic inequality has also contributed to deep communal frustration.
Sadly, these circumstances are not unique to Ferguson. The challenges of racial divides and mistrust that afflict communities across the U.S. are a tragic emblem of how much work remains to be done to overcome divisions rooted in our nation’s history and the persistence of racial and ethnic disparities. As the gap between the rich and the poor widens in America, these economic inequalities are having a detrimental effect on communities where opportunities are shrinking every day.
Efforts to remedy these challenges require both short- and long-term commitments. Law enforcement must swiftly, fully and justly investigate the circumstances of Michael Brown’s death even while respecting and protecting the rights of community members who wish to assemble peacefully and express themselves. Communal relationships must be strengthened and we are encouraged that so many Reform congregations, including those in and around St. Louis, are engaged in such interfaith and inter-coalitional efforts. We are proud of our synagogue members and rabbis who have participated in, and supported efforts to keep peaceful, the protests that have taken place in Ferguson. As a Movement, we stand with them and will continue to advocate for policies and practices that address the scourge of racial profiling while promoting opportunity for all. We also continue to work to address those policies that have contributed to the growing economic inequality nationwide with the goal of ensuring that Americans in every community have the foundations they need and the opportunities they deserve to achieve the American Dream.