With last week’s speedy fix of the air traffic controllers’ sequester cuts, it’s a wonder people complain about gridlock in Washington! The bill, which allows the Department of Transportation to move money around the department to offset furloughs, passed by a landslide in the House, unanimously in the Senate and is expected to seamlessly work its way through the White House. While the fast passage of a needed alternative to at least a portion of sequestration is welcome, this bill sets a dangerous—and infeasible—precedent for future budget discussions.
We read in Proverbs, “Train up a child in the way the child should go, and even when the child is old, they will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). This idea speaks not only to the importance of education in the Jewish tradition, but to carrying out that education in a way that teaches children to be just and compassionate. Thus it should be of particular concern to us as a community when our youth are educated in unequal environments.
The Boys Scouts of America (BSA) has long been an example of a concerning environment. Despite the camaraderie, the character building and the training Boy Scout troops offer to America’s youth, they have long refused to admit gay and transgender people as scouts and scout leaders. The Reform Movement has consistently spoken out against this policy, urging all of our congregations to break their ties with the BSA in 2001.
However this unjust policy may soon be changing. The BSA announced today that they will be introducing a resolution at their board meeting in May to adopt a national non-discrimination policy against gay and transgender youth. The BSA has been considering changes for some time, but many had thought that they would leave it up to individual troops to decide on their own policy. This announcement of a national non-discrimination policy, which many LGBT rights group had advocated for, is a welcome change.
In a bizarre inconsistency the BSA announced that it would not change its policy regarding gay scout leaders and continue to bar the participation of LGBT adults. One might ask what message it sends to LGBT youth that they can participate in the organization as children but once they reach adulthood they are to be disqualified. Both aspects of this policy still have to be approved by the Boy Scouts national board at their meeting next month.
Of course the Boy Scouts are not the only place that LGBT youth face discrimination in America today. Sadly, too many children experience bullying and harassment in schools because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. While current law allows students legal recourse to challenge discrimination in schools based on race, gender and religion, there is no national law that allows such action against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Yesterday Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Reps. Ros Lehtinen (R-FL) and Polis (D-CO) introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would fix this hole in the law. The Union for Reform Judaism has joined a number of religious, civil rights and education organizations in publically calling for this critical piece of legislation.
Perhaps between the BSA reevaluating its discriminatory policy and the consideration of legal protections for LGBT youth we can as a nation take an important step toward making sure our children are “trained up in the way they should go” toward justice and equality.
Image courtesy of scouting.org
Ok. So, we hear talk all the time about energy and renewable energy and how much energy we consume and changing our energy sources. Most of us have some relatively basic understanding of how energy and electricity work, which is to say we get that it has to be “made” somewhere and then transported to us. Some of us might even understand that there are differences between fuel types and that utility companies oversee the whole apparatus, but let’s be honest, it’s a complicated system that can, and does, take years to dissect and understand. Energy is a complex topic that is heavily rooted in science.
Finding a simple explanation for how the electricity industry works in the U.S. is like looking for a needle in a haystack. There are words, phrases, acronyms and jargon that are just not easily accessible to us average non-scientists. So, when you stumble onto a simple, yet complete, layman’s explanation of the whole thing, it is worth sharing with the world. If you have ever wondered what, where, when, how or WTF about the energy sector in the United States, it is well worth taking a look this presentation or written outline of the U.S. energy industry.
It is simple, easy to understand, and reasonably comprehensive about what energy generation in the U.S. is all about. Think of it as an opportunity to learn something new. What is more Jewish than study?
Image Courtesy of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA).
The fight to increase school voucher programs has recently resurfaced. We’ve seen more discussions in the last few weeks in courts, state legislatures and even Congress. Although there are setbacks, for the most part we are fortunately seeing the facts win out—the evidence that not only do vouchers threaten religious liberty, but they are ineffective from an educational standpoint as well.
On Purim we read about Esther
And how Haman’s plot didn’t best her
But this year there’s more
Evil plotting in store
As we worry about the sequester.
–Rabbi Joe Black
Education is the key to success. This axiom seems so intuitive that the idea of a major segment of a country’s population excluding itself from basic education seems ridiculous. Could you imagine schools that deny thousands of students access to subjects that would give them the tools to work and support themselves? That is exactly what is happening here in the state-funded Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) school system.
This is one eventful weekend! We have the start of Black History Month, Groundhog Day, the Super Bowl, and to top it all off, the first weekend of Jewish Disability Awareness Month. How will we possibly survive all the excitement? What were they thinking when they planned all of this for just a few short days?