Tag Archives: Economic Justice
Ferguson clergy protest

In Advance of the Ferguson Grand Jury, What Have We Learned?

The grand jury in the Ferguson case is expected to meet today in what could be its final session. If a decision is made, it will likely not be made public until at least Sunday because the prosecutors are expected to provide law enforcement 48 hours notice.  The FBI has warned that the decision will likely lead to violence by some individuals and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has already declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. As we approach this decision, it is important to reflect on how we can address the root problems that allowed the August 9 shooting and subsequent events to occur. The reports and articles below discuss what we can learn from Ferguson, how we can improve police and community relations and why it is important to prevent discrimination and promote diversity.

A 2012 report by the American Psychological Association (APA) called “Dual Pathways to a Better America: Preventing Discrimination and Promoting Diversity” aims to address the societal challenge of eliminating bias, prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination as well as their deleterious effects on both victims and perpetrators. A task force of experts was assembled to identify and promote interventions to counteract and prevent these harmful actions and to examine the benefits of promoting inclusion, respect, acceptance and appreciation of diversity.

A September article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains how psychologists and psychological research can help Ferguson heal. The writers explain that our nation must “commit to the complex and difficult work of change” to address the distrust between law enforcement and communities of color, militarized policing, entrenched inequalities, and racism and discrimination. This change can start with honest conversations and dialogues about race relations and the persistence of racism in America.

The public interest sector of the APA also launched a blog series about race, racism and law enforcement in communities of color. One of the posts, by Dr. Ellen Schriver, discusses the need for effective community policing with an emphasis on community relationships as a way of preventing crime and keeping communities safe.

Another post, by Dr. Tom Tyler, identifies teachable moments from the tragedy. He explains that the most important factor in whether or not the public trust the police is whether they believe the police or fairly exercising their authority. He explains that “if people see the police acting with justice, they respond with trust.”

As we prepare for the decision in this controversial case, we hope that the community and the country as a whole will work to address the underlying issues that brought about this tragedy and improve race relations and police relations across the country.

 

cornocopia

As We Celebrate Thanksgiving, Let’s Not Forget the Least Among Us

Next Wednesday, I am flying home from Washington DC to Boston to celebrate Thanksgiving. One of my family’s Thanksgiving traditions is to wake up a little earlier than my younger brother and sister would like and volunteer for Little Brothers of the Elderly, a non-profit that sends volunteers to the homes of elderly men and women throughout the Boston area to ensure that they have a happy Thanksgiving

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New Report is a Call to Action to End Child Homelessness

A recent comprehensive state-by-state report sponsored by the National Center on Family Homelessness at American Institutes for Research shows that the number of homeless children in the country has reached a record high, amounting to one in thirty children being homeless! This means that 2.5 million children in the United States go to sleep without a home of their own each night, a historic high in the number of homeless children in the U.S.

From 2012 to 2013, the number of children experiencing homelessness annually in the US increased by 8% nationally and increased in 31 states as well as in the District of Columbia. But, every state has children experiencing homelessness, with estimations indicating that about half of homeless children are under the age of 6.

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Securing a High Quality Public Education System for America’s Children

As the graduate from a public high school, I know what the impact of public schools can have on a person. At Newton South High School, I was fortunate enough to have many fantastic teachers, to participate in a number of extracurricular activities, to receive a high quality education that well prepared me for college as well as for my job, and to make great friends, many of whom I am still close with today. My public school education made me the person who I am today.

The number of children attending public schools is at a record level – and it’s growing. This fall, about 49.8 million students are attending public elementary and secondary schools. Yet, many of these schools, especially those that serve children in poverty, are underfunded, overcrowded, and rundown with underpaid, and overworked teachers.

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Children walking down street with their father wearing backpacks

Making Sure That Children Count

Children represent an incredibly important part of the country, for they are one-quarter of the population. Beyond the numbers, children will be our next generation of workers and leaders. The share of federal funding directed towards children has declined and today amounts to under 8 percent of the overall budget.

In 2013, over 14.7 million children in the US were poor in 2013, and the majority of those children lived in families with working parents. 1 in 5 children in the US are currently living in poverty and 1.3 million school children are homeless. This high child’s poverty rate costs our country half a trillion dollars every year in lost productivity as well as in extra health and criminal justice costs; money that could better be spent on creating or implementing programs that could truly benefit these children and set them on a path towards progress.

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Rabbi David Saperstein and Nancy Zirkin discussing the election

Midterms 2014: What the Election Means for Jewish Social Justice

With a few days’ distance from the 2014 midterm elections, we are beginning to put the results of this election in context — for what it means for Congress, state legislatures, state laws and of course our work to advance social justice in the United States. The day after the election, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center released a statement welcoming the resounding success of three key state ballot initiatives and noting our long history of working successfully with members on both sides of the aisle to advance shared priorities. We look forward to another exciting chapter in Washington, D.C. and in the states.

On Thursday, Rachel Laser moderated a conversation between RAC Director Rabbi David Saperstein, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Executive Vice President and Director of Policy Nancy Zirkin and RAC Senior Advisor Michael Horowitz. To watch the exciting conversation, visit our Election Day resources page, or watch it here:

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Using Our Tax System To Help the Most Vulnerable Among Us

As we look forward to Congress coming back for one last session in 2014, we need to think about future actions that Congress can take to pass policies that can positively impact Americans and can ameliorate economic inequality. One potential measure is the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable credit. Since the EITC only benefits individuals in the workforce, the antipoverty measure is seen as helping encourage people to work and to participate in the workforce. This federal credit applies to low and moderate income workers by encouraging work, offsetting federal income and payroll taxes, and ultimately increasing family income. The EITC increases as a low-income workers’ income level rises and is slowly phased out, meaning that a worker can eventually earn too much to be able to qualify for this.

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Reform Movement Responds to Election Results

In response to the 2014 midterm election results, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued a statement:

In the wake of yesterday’s election results, we welcome the resounding success of three key state ballot initiatives that will enhance America’s safety and well-being. In Washington State, all gun purchases will now require a common-sense background check. Thanks to Nebraska voters, the state’s minimum wage will increase to $9 by 2016. In fact, voters approved minimum wage increases in four states nationwide, all by wide margins. And in Massachusetts, voters said “yes” to Question 4, allowing workers at companies with 11 or more employees to earn paid sick leave. In each of these states, Reform rabbis and congregants working with the Religious Action Center’s staff were key to the initiatives’ passage – offering sermons, publishing op-eds, speaking with colleagues and friends, and voting.

Read the entirety of the statement here.

To learn more about our work on economic justice issues (including paid sick days and minimum wage) and the Jewish values that underpin our advocacy and programming, be sure to visit our issue page.

The Reform Movement has a long and storied history of advocating for civil rights, from our engagement in the Civil Rights Movement, to the fact that we are intimately acquainted with the effects of bigotry. Our ancestors knew both the continuing indignities of second-class citizenship and the constant fear of xenophobic violence. Our history teaches us that discrimination against any members of a community threatens the security of the entire community. Learn more about our work on civil rights, including election reform and voting rights.

Also, don’t forget to join our post-election briefing today, November 6, at 1:30 p.m. as our panel will discuss different perspectives on the prospects for critical human and civil rights issues in the upcoming Congress. Join in live here.

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