“Why, when we fasted, did You not see? When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?” (Isaiah 58:3). We know these questions as those of the Israelites in the book of Isaiah dismayed that God had not responded to their penance, but in light of today – the 100th day of the hunger strike at the prison at Guantanamo Bay – these questions take on a new relevance. 102 of the 166 men currently detained in Guantanamo are participating in a hunger strike to challenge their treatment and their continued detention. The questions confront us today: do we not see? Do we pay no heed? And, perhaps more pressing, is this the fast that we desired?
While sanctuaries are filled with the white robes of Confirmation and the chanting of the story of Ruth, we sometimes forget that Shavuot is also a harvest festival and that Ruth’s story is not just one of choosing Judaism, but one deeply steeped in farming, gleaning and reaping. What better time of year, then, for the Senate and House to mark up the Farm Bill?
The Farm Bill governs America’s food policy for the next five years—from farm subsidies to crop insurance to international food aid to domestic anti-hunger programs. Wait, anti-hunger programs? Why are those included in the Farm Bill? Why is an anti-poverty program included in a huge bill all about farming? If we look at Jewish tradition, however, it makes total sense.
While the new Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill takes many strides toward improving our immigration system, it also includes some significant steps backward. Our Jewish tradition not only teaches us, but commands us to treat the foreigner living in our country with the same laws as our own.
One day, as a few people were walking by the riverside, they saw babies floating down the river. Several people jumped into the river and started pulling the babies out to try to save them, but more and more babies kept coming faster and faster. One of the men jumped out of the river and someone screamed to him, “Where are you going?” He said, “I am going to see who is putting the babies in the river and try to stop them.” (Version from Congregation Beth Israel)
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.
This week the Senate Agriculture Committee is marking up the Farm Bill. Translation: A group of 20 senators is sitting around a fancy table working their way, line-by-line, through over 1,000 pages of a bill that will govern nearly all farm-related and food policy both domestically and internationally for the next 5 years. And you thought your schedule for this week looked rough!
This post is part of our Passover series, in which we think about the application of our age-old Passover story and traditions to the crucial issues we face today. For ways to infuse your seder with social justice, see our holiday guide.
Passover is a special time when we gather with family and friends to retell the story of our people’s freedom from bondage. We read from the haggadah and delve into the Exodus story, perform rituals that are thousands of years old, and eat a bounty of delicious and symbolic foods. Unfortunately, not everyone is fortunate enough to enjoy the luxury of a festive meal, let alone the assurance of eating regularly.