This midterm election, only 36.4 percent of the voting eligible population cast ballots. The disappointing turnout is not surprising- midterm election turnout has been declining and is always lower than presidential elections. But, this year is particularly troubling because of the disenfranchisement that occurred across the country. Read more…
It’s mid-November and we have transitioned from pumpkin spice lattes to actual pumpkin pie; Thanksgiving is around the corner. Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday to consider as an American Jew in that is nationally celebrated and steeped in ritual, but not directly connected to any one religious tradition. The upcoming holiday presents an opportunity to reach out of our immediate Jewish community and engage with our friends and family of other faiths and of no faith.
Many members of the RAC staff are currently in Atlanta at the fall meeting of the Commission on Social Action. Throughout the meeting, the Commission is working on important social justice issues, while also learning about the abundant civil rights history of Atlanta and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. During yesterday morning’s opening plenary session, I delivered a d’var Torah connecting our work to Jewish tradition and the civil rights movement. An abbreviated version of the d’var is here:
Almost as soon as the CCAR conference began in June of 1964, the presiding rabbi stepped forward with an urgent telegram from Martin Luther King Jr. King needed rabbis to take part in demonstrations against the segregated city of St. Augustine, Florida and he needed them immediately. The next morning, 16 Rabbis and then leader of the CSA Al Vorspan were at the airport, answering King’s call.
Commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
By Michael Lieberman
This month we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), the most important, comprehensive, and inclusive federal hate crime enforcement law passed in the past 40 years. The Anti-Defamation League and the Religious Action Center played critical roles helping to lead the very broad coalition of civil rights, religious, educational, professional, law enforcement, and civic organizations that advocated for the HCPA for more than a dozen years.
New data analysis by the Weekly Number shows that throughout the world, the lack of religious freedom is linked to gender inequality. Extremist ideologies are often a contributing factor to a dearth of religious freedom and the analysis shows that when there is a lack of respect for a diversity of religious beliefs, gender inequality often results. Read more…
Yesterday I was one of over 310,000 people to march across Manhattan the weekend before the UN Climate Summit with the People’s Climate March. Together, we asked our leaders both domestically and internationally to support a strong, global commitment to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the most vulnerable communities worldwide from the devastating effects of climate change. The march included a broad swath of people from environmental, labor, scientific and faith communities. In the hours leading up to the March, Reform Jews stood side by side with Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, Unitarians, Southern Baptists, seekers and pagans for an interfaith prayer service. On a stage propped up in front of an inflatable mosque and an interfaith arc, we watched Rabbi Arthur Waskow give a benediction, Josh Nelson and Neshama Carlebach lead a niggun, monks, preachers, imams and priests all provide blessing in their traditions for the march, the UN Summit leaders, and the earth.
In advance of the UN Climate Summit beginning tomorrow, Barbara Weinstein, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Director of the Commission on Social Action, issued the following statement:
“We are pleased to join with others in the environmental, scientific and faith communities in urging our domestic and international leaders this week to make a strong commitment to curbing climate change and its effects. This past weekend, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis were proud to partner with HUC-JIR and Reform congregants and congregations from the greater New York area and beyond to be part of the 300,000-plus who participated in the People’s Climate March to express our shared commitment to achieving a solution to the current climate crisis.
As people of faith, blessed to live in a nation with the resources and ability to be a climate leader, we have a moral obligation to address the devastation of climate change that is already wreaking havoc on the air we breathe, water we drink and earth that sustains us. Yet only with a concerted international commitment to tackling this challenge can we ensure that we pass on a healthy earth as we pass on our sacred traditions l’dor v’dor, from one generation to the next. We must act in particular for the sake of the most vulnerable – the sick, children, the elderly and others living in communities ill-equipped to respond to the increasing instances of flooding, drought, food shortages, and disease associated with climate change.
We look forward to this week’s summit renewing the global commitment to stemming climate change and to meaningful engagement from individuals, corporations, communities, and nations.”
On Wednesday, September 17, in a ceremony held in the Member’s Room of the Library of Congress, attended by ambassadors, Members of Congress, religious leaders, and others, Ambassador Rudolf Bekink of the Netherlands presented Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, with the inaugural Anne Frank Award for Human Dignity and Tolerance. The honor acknowledges those who have worked to “confront intolerance, anti-Semitism, racism, and discrimination while upholding freedom and equal rights.”
“The Netherlands and the United States have been friends for more than 400 years, in part because both our nations share a respect for justice and human rights,” Ambassador Bekink said after the ceremony. “Rabbi Saperstein has dedicated his life to confronting intolerance and anti-Semitism, upholding human rights, and helping people of different backgrounds understand each other. I can think of no one better qualified to receive the inaugural Anne Frank Award for Human Dignity and Tolerance.”