Tag Archives: Civil Rights
Rabbi Everett Gendler

A Heavenly Earth Day

By Rabbi Everett Gendler

Thirty six years ago, when Jimmy Carter was president, he established a number of regional Solar Energy Centers to encourage the use of sun-fueled electricity.  Attracted to the idea of plugging our temple Eternal Light directly into the sun, I and several members of Temple Emanuel, Lowell, MA, investigated the feasibility of converting our Ner Tamid to solar power.

Its symbolic appropriateness is evident.  Non-polluting, not in danger of imminent depletion, it seemed perfectly suited as a pure symbol of illumination and eternity.  We obtained two solar panels, storage batteries for hours of darkness and periods of heavy cloud cover, and at the dark of the year, during Hanukkah, 1978, we celebrated its installation.  People appreciated its symbolic value, and in December, 1991, we celebrated its Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

During my remaining years as rabbi of the temple, the light ever so gently kept nudging me:  Why only a symbol?  Why not real production of more usable electricity for your temple?  The question was not easily answered.  Succeeding U. S. administrations did not maintain the solar energy centers, and the necessary technical information was hard to obtain.  Even though the Light was included in a Union of Concerned Scientists-Real Goods book, Renewables Are Ready, published in 1995, by then I was retiring from the temple, and so it remained symbolic, not pragmatic. Read more…

Affirmative Action at the Court

Last week, the Supreme Court decided Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, ruling that Michigan voters could choose to prohibit sex- and race-based preferences in higher education admissions. The decision was disappointing to many civil rights advocates, but given the scope of the ruling does not represent the end of affirmative action. Read more…

Oklahoma Botches Execution: What’s Going On?

Last night, the state of Oklahoma effectively tortured one of its prisoners to death, after weeks of legal back-and-forth between the state’s courts about the legality of the execution. Clayton Lockett’s execution was halted after it was clear that the lethal injection procedure was botched, but he suffered significantly and ultimately died as a result of the botched procedure.

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Faith Leaders Applaud Obama’s Expanded Use of Clemency

Last week, the Obama Administration announced a significant initiative to expand eligibility for clemency for some offenders. The move was hailed by civil rights groups and faith organizations, who have long been concerned about the President’s record on clemency and have pushed for smart, fair criminal justice reform. Read more…

Thou Shalt Not Take Vengeance: Advocating for Sentencing Reform

In this week’s parsha we read, “Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:19). It is reasonable and necessary to punish crime, in the interest of public safety. But for some offenders—especially drug offenders—our current laws disproportionately punish low-level offenders without improving public safety.

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Supreme Court

Supreme Court Happenings

In light of recent Supreme Court decisions, and more opinions expected to come down this morning, it feels like an appropriate time to recap what the nine justices have been working and opining on.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court handed down a decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, upholding a constitutional ban on affirmative action in public university admissions in Michigan 6-2 (Justice Kagan recused herself). Interestingly, Justice Stephen Breyer concurred with the conservative wing of the Court. The New York Times notes that “justices in the majority, with varying degrees of vehemence, said that policies affecting minorities that do not involve intentional discrimination should ordinarily be decided at the ballot box rather than in the courtroom.”

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Democracy Restoration Act Reintroduced

Just weeks after Attorney General Holder highlighted the issue of felon disenfranchisement, members of Congress have introduced the Democracy Restoration Act, which would restore voting rights in federal elections to 4.4 million Americans who are out of prison and living in the community. Read more…

Day of Silence

Day of Silence: Speaking Louder than Words

Today marks the 19th annual Day of Silence. All across of the nation, students will be taking some form of a vow of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of harassment and discrimination felt by LGBT students and allies in school.

Bullying and harassment has been proven to create significant adverse consequences for students, which often severely effect LGBT students. Middle and high schools students are in an extremely vulnerable time in their lives and with the social and academic pressures students already face, no student show have to deal with the added stresses that come with fear of expressing oneself. Read more…

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