Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who was shot and killed while driving through Dallas, Texas in a convertible. President Kennedy was the youngest man elected president, and also the youngest president to die. He is remembered by the American public for many things: being a young, charismatic leader who sought to engage young people, as the first Catholic president, for his marriage to Jackie Kennedy, and his involvement and leadership in the Cold War. As we look back on this loss, we should also remember him for his relationship with the Jewish community in America. Read more…
Tomorrow, President George W. Bush is expected to be the keynote speaker at an annual fundraiser for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MJBI), a Texas-based organization identified with the belief that all Jews should be converted to Christianity and the deceptive assertion that one can be authentically Jewish and hold core Christian theological beliefs about the divinity of Jesus. Just weeks ago, President Bush addressed an event for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella organization of 51 national Jewish organizations. Sarah Posner first reported on President Bush’s upcoming speech last week in Mother Jones; since then, many Jewish leaders have spoken out against his decision to address the MJBI. Rabbi David Wolpe, named Newsweek’s most influential rabbi, published an op-ed in The Forward on Monday and Abe Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, issued a press statement.
Rabbi David Saperstein, the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, was a guest on the Rachel Maddow Show expressing keen disappointment with President Bush’s decision to confer legitimacy on this group with his address.
When Jay Feinberg was diagnosed with leukemia in 1991, he needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. Because bone marrow type is linked to DNA, and therefore one’s ancestry, as an Ashkenazi Jew, Jay had less than a 5% chance of finding a match. It took years of searching for Jay’s friends and family to find a donor for him. Having made a full recovery, Jay has made it his life’s mission to help others find their match. Thanks to his organization and our partner, Gift of Life, Jews now have a 70% chance finding a life-saving match.
Despite the good news, the work is far from finished. Non-white minority groups face similar, daunting odds that Jews faced before Gift of Life began its work. In the International Bone Marrow Registry, 73% of potential donors are white. Minorities break down as follows:
- 9% Hispanic or Latino
- 8% African American or Black
- 7% Asians
- 3% Multiracial
- 1% American Indian/Alaska Native
So if an African American, Latino, Native American or Asian child needed a bone marrow transplant to survive a leukemia diagnosis, that child would have a less than 18% chance of finding a match. Compare this with the odds of a non-minority white child, who would have an 85% chance of finding a match.
That’s why here at the RAC we are initiating a new project on Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend. We are seeking congregations that will partner with historically black churches or black colleges in their communities to hold joint services or other programs commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. The two groups will educate participants about the importance of bone marrow registration in minority communities and offer an opportunity to swab in to the registry.
This is a great opportunity for congregations that are interested in interfaith activities and hands-on social action projects. As this is a brand new program, the sky is the limit in thinking of interesting, creative ways to bring this program to your community. Interested in participating? Call me at 202.387.2800 or email me. I will give you all the tools and knowledge you need to make this a success!
Jews and Catholics have come a long way in 50 years, as could be seen recently when the International Jewish-Catholic Liaison Committee (ILC) held its biennial consultation in Madrid, Spain. The ILC consists of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.
The vote is fast approaching – the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is likely to come to the Senate floor in the next couple of weeks for the first time since 1996, when it was one vote shy of passing. Since ENDA was passed out of the Senate HELP committee in June, the RAC has been one of many faith organizations to come together and rise as a single voice to encourage the swift passage of the bill. Since July, sixty faith organizations, representing ten denominations, have signed onto a letter to Senators asking them to support ENDA. Although we read in Biblical texts portions that admonish homosexuality, many Jews and other people of faith have dealt with this archaic notion in recalling Leviticus 19:18: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Read more…
In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the RAC is excited to present a fascinating panel discussion this November in conjunction with the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum and several leading faith groups. If you’re not in the Washington, D.C. Metro area – never fear! The event will be streamed live online! Stay tuned to RACBlog and the RAC Twitter (@therac, twitter.com/therac) for updates. Read on for details - Read more…
November 9 will mark the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht (“The Night of Broken Glass), which was a violent and horrible pogrom against Jews in Europe in 1938. Nearly three-quarters of a century later, a mosque in Gdansk, Poland was torched. The imam of the mosque, Hani Hraish, told local media: “It’s very unpleasant for us, very harmful. The fire didn’t just burn our mosque but our heart and souls too.” The destruction of places of worship hurts not just physical spaces but also hearts and souls, a theme that is all too familiar to the Jewish people. Read more…
122 people have lit themselves on fire in Tibet since February, 2009. The most recent death occurred only a few weeks ago. These acts of self-immolations by men and women in Tibet ask the world not to forget about the struggle of the Tibetan people against the harsh and unrelenting rule of China. Many believe that the recent rise in self-immolation is a result of an anxiety and impatience on the part of political activists. (See here for a brief history of self-immolations in the modern context.) Read more…