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.
As someone who has traveled a good amount, I can’t say I’m always proud of some of the American stereotypes that are out there, worst of all – that Americans are overweight. This is more than a stereotype nowadays when one in three children in the United States is either overweight or obese. In order to fight the past few decades’ transition to unhealthy behavior, First Lady Michelle Obama started the Let’s Move Campaign in 2010.
When I first began kindergarten, I was very excited about school. However, in the following years, my enthusiasm dwindled as school became a routine part of life. I failed to see my school experiences as a privilege, one I obtained solely because of the location where I lived. However, if had I lived elsewhere I may have had a much different schooling experience. If I had grown up in Malawi, I might have used a brick as my desk and shared a textbook with up to ten other children. In Nigeria, I would have struggled to learn due to the constant fear of terrorist groups breaking into my school. Or, I could have been one of the millions of children across the globe that are not even enrolled in school.
Growing up, birthdays were an important day in my house. The morning started with a concoction called “Birthday Breakfast,” inspired by a dessert my parents had eaten on a date together (it’s two waffles, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream—trust me, it’s amazing). For my 5th birthday party in 1995, my parents planned a big backyard carnival, complete with games, party signs, and prizes. I remember that birthday, as well as all the birthdays I’ve celebrated since that day, and the thoughtfulness with which my parents marked each of my birthdays. Read more…
It would be difficult to conceptualize a more abject situation than this: a child, escaping poverty or violence in Central America, travelling to a foreign country, alone. But in the past few month, the number of children doing just that has increased dramatically, with a record 47,017 children under the age of 18 apprehended on the US-Mexico border since October 2013. Read more…