Yesterday, I had the opportunity to deliver the following words before the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism at the RAC’s Consultation on Conscience:
Today, at the opening day of the Consultation on Conscience, we opened our programming with a short plenary followed by two rich and engaging workshop blocks. Participants had the opportunity to learn about the importance of national paid sick days legislation from Vicki Shabo of the National Partnership for Women and Families; to learn about the moral call to end climate change from Rabbi Larry Troster of GreenFaith; to delve into how create inclusive communities for people with disabilities; to hear from Rabbi Joel Mosbacher on his work to prevent the greater scourge of gun violence prevention; just to name a few of the wonderful workshops! Read more…
On April 26, 2015, hundreds of Reform Jews will gather for the Consultation on Conscience, the Reform Movement’s flagship social justice conference. That Sunday, participants will have the opportunity to hear from Ari Ne’eman, president and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, an advocacy organization run by and for Autistic adults seeking to increase the representation of Autistic people across society; Liz Leibowitz, Legislative Associate at the Jewish Federations of North America; and Edie Mencher, Coordinator of the URJ-Ruderman Family Foundation Partnership for Inclusion of People with Disabilities. In the workshop “Ramping Buildings and Ramping Attitudes: Disability Inclusion and Advocacy,” the speakers will discuss best practices for including people with disabilities in Jewish communities and how to complement your inclusion efforts with disability rights advocacy.
When I left for college my freshman year, I was nervous about exploring a new Jewish community. However, I immediately felt at home as I walked into my university’s Hillel’s Conservative Friday night services and saw the Siddur Sim Shalom, the prayer book that I had grown up with. The siddur offered me a sense of comfort and familiarity in an otherwise completely new setting.
I’ve loved working at the RAC these past six months and one of the highlights of my time at the RAC so far has been our L’Taken social justice seminars for high school students, where nearly 300 Reform Jewish teens come to Washington, D.C. for a weekend to learn about social justice, lobby on Capitol Hill and get inspiration to be lifelong Jewish advocates. Now, when I first applied for this job, I wasn’t particularly excited about L’Taken. While the idea of engaging high school students on important social justice issues sounded appealing, I thought back to how my classmates behaved in high school. Fortunately, it turned out I was wrong and running six L’Takens the past three months has reminded me why I love working for the RAC so much.
This past weekend, four of the other legislative assistants and I were in Selma for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the March to Montgomery. We had planned our trips months prior to the event, and although I was excited to be a part of this important milestone, I became more and more nervous as the Jubilee approached. With each passing day, I continued to read about the barriers to marriage equality in Alabama, and although I clearly had no intention of getting married while in Alabama, it reminded me that Alabama has the lowest support for marriage equality out of all fifty states and lacks non-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals. I would be leaving the queer-friendly bubble of Washington, D.C. for a state where I could not as easily assume people’s support for my rights. It was ironic that I would be going to a state to mark a landmark moment in civil rights history while that same state was currently in the throes of resisting equality for LGBT people.
By Shelley Christensen
“For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in its produce. But in the seventh year, the land shall have a complete rest, a Sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field, you shall not prune your vineyard, nor shall you reap the aftergrowth of your harvest . . . And [the produce of] the Sabbath of the land shall be yours to eat for you, for your male and female servants, and for your hired worker and resident who live with you . . . (Leviticus 25:3–6)
Having completed six consecutive years of observing Jewish Disability Awareness Months (2009-2015), we now approach the shmita year. In ancient times, shmita meant the land was rested and debts were retired, but what might this practice mean in our time? And what are the indications for our work and mission to suffuse our Jewish culture with the spirit of inclusion throughout the year? Read more…
One of the first things I learned about as the legislative assistant working on disability rights was that February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM) and that the RAC and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) (as the co-chairs of the Jewish Disability Network, a coalition of over two dozen Jewish organizations advocating for disability rights) plan an annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day (JDAD) to coincide with JDAM. However, none of the stories I heard about JDAD nor the planning of it could prepare me for the excitement of the day itself: an the amazing opportunity to see 90 Jews from across the U.S. converge on Capitol Hill to advocate for disability rights on Wednesday.