Tag Archives: International Affairs

This World Malaria Day: Join the Fight Against Malaria

Next Saturday, April 25, is World Malaria Day, a day when advocates and citizens across the globe will raise awareness and take action to end malaria. In honor of this important day, a number of champions in the fight against malaria have shared their stories.

One of our college malaria fellows, Jason Flatt, shared with us how his involvement in the fight against malaria connects to his favorite Torah portion. He talks about how he has been able to merge Judaism and the important components of his Jewish life with his other true passion, political advocacy, which allows him to pursue this work with his entire soul.

“Rather, it is Jewish in the sense that the Jewish half of my soul, encoded with Jewish teachings and values, is working concurrently with the secular part of my soul, focused on worldly, current, and personal endeavors. Thus, everything I do, I am doing with all my soul.”

Another fellow (and future RAC Legislative Assistant) Rachel Landman shared how much her work with the RAC and Nothing But Nets has taught her how important her voice is and how she can use it to be an effective advocate.

“The advocacy side of the fellowship exposed me to the power my fellow Hamilton students and I have to change policy… Following [my first advocacy] meeting, I realized that between my preparation from the RAC and Nothing But Nets and my passion for the cause, I was able to educate and spread awareness about malaria to policymakers who could effect change by funding programs that deliver these nets to those in need.”

Finally, Dan Skallman, Senior Campaign Associate at Nothing But Nets shares why he joined the fight against malaria. After living and working in a rural farming community in Senegal, Dan realized how prevalent and harmful malaria is.

“Nearly every week, I saw the real impacts of malaria – not just on the health of individuals, but on the livelihoods of entire communities. Kids were kept out of school, fields were left unplowed and the full economic potential of communities often went unfulfilled. But, I was also encouraged by the amazing work being done by local community health workers and volunteers, who were fighting to defeat this deadly disease by distributing bednets, educating communities on their proper use, providing life-saving treatments, and more.”

Since 2007, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Religious Action Center have proudly partnered with Nothing But Nets to fight this deadly disease. We have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to send insecticide-treated bed nets to families in sub-Saharan Africa who are at risk of contracting malaria. We have also sent hundreds of letters to Congress, and held countless lobbying meetings to tell our Members of Congress how important it is to robustly fund malaria prevention efforts.

Our Jewish faith emphasizes the importance of saving lives in Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5, “it is for this reason that God created only one human in the beginning, a token that he who destroys one life, it is as though he had destroyed all humankind; whereas he who preserves one life, it is as though he preserved all humanity.” By teaching us that every life matters, our tradition poses us with a moral obligation to help others. I hope that this World Malaria Day we all will remember our moral obligation and do our part to end this deadly disease.

Learn how you can get involved at rac.org/nets and urge your Members of Congress to take action to eradicate malaria.

I'm a Reform Jew and I support child nutrition programs

The Global, Moral Call to Ending Extreme Poverty

The Religious Action Center is proud to join the World Bank and 30 other faith organizations in the work to end extreme poverty around the world by 2030. RAC Director Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner participated at a meeting of faith leaders at the World Bank out of which this new initiative has grown.

Along with other religious, human rights, and relief service groups, the Reform Movement has worked hard over the years to fight against cuts on development and humanitarian assistance for developing countries. In the past, our efforts have been geared toward securing substantial levels of aid for developing nations.  Read more…

Dan Skallman

Why I Joined the Fight Against Malaria

By Dan Skallman

Before I joined the Nothing But Nets team, I lived and worked in a rural farming community in eastern Senegal. Although nearly everyone I worked with was a farmer, one topic of conversation in the community was even more prevalent than the coming harvest – malaria.

Farmers, who make up around 65 percent of the African workforce, know the dangers of malaria better than most people. They perform work that is dependent on heavy rains – rains that can bring a bountiful harvest, but also the pervasive threat of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. If these communities don’t have access to high quality insecticide-treated bednets, the threat to their health and safety is critical. Read more…

Learning about Advocacy through the RAC and Nothing But Nets Fellowship

By Rachel Landman

As World Malaria Day approaches on April 25, I have been reflecting on how much I have learned and accomplished as a Religious Action Center and Nothing But Nets Malaria Fellow over the past three semesters. Nothing But Nets is a global grassroots campaign that raises money to send mosquito nets to Sub-Saharan Africa to prevent malaria. I had firsthand experience while studying in Kenya and Tanzania during the fall of 2013 where I slept safely under a net protected from the deadly bite of a mosquito each night, but helplessly witnessed my local friends suffering from malaria. But prior to the fellowship, I had heard of Nothing But Nets, but did not truly understand the vast prevalence of malaria worldwide, or what I could do once I returned to the United States. Read more…

Reform Movement Applauds US Commitment to Curbing Climate Change

Yesterday, the Obama Administration proposed a 28% cut in greenhouse gas emissions over the course of the next decade. The announcement was part of international climate negotiations leading up to the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Paris, France this December. Each member nation of the Convention is expected to give their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) ahead of the conference with a deadline for peak emissions and an expected cut in emissions. You can read more about what the INDCs are and their place in the process on the World Resources Institute page.

Read more…

Jason Flatt

Fighting Malaria with My Whole Soul

By Jason Flatt

A couple of weeks ago, we read one of my favorite Torah portions, Parashat Ki Tissa. In this parsha, all of the Israelites are told to give a half-shekel to the building of the Tabernacle.

One of the ways Torah scholars try to understand the text is through Gematria where each letter of the aleph-bet holds a specific numeric value. It is said that there is a great symbolism every time two words hold the same numeric value in Gematria.

The Hebrew word for soul is nefesh, and it happens to hold the exact same numeric value as the word shekel. Thus, it can be said that when each of the Israelites gave their half-shekel to the census in Ki Tisa, symbolically, they were giving much more than a piece of metal. Read more…

Defend Women's Reproductive Rights

From Page to Practice: Reinterpreting the Helms Amendment

Since his inauguration in 2009, advocates for reproductive rights have been urging President Obama to reinterpret the Helms Amendment, which bans American foreign aid for abortion services in all circumstances. Though certainly not the only dangerous, anti-choice policy in U.S. law, Helms stands out as the lowest hanging fruit on these issues. This is especially the case because while most of these reproductive rights-related policies take the form of legislation and apply immediately individuals across the country, the Obama Administration administers the foreign aid that would be sent to clinics around the world. Thus, it is in the power of the executive branch to reinterpret the Helms Amendment, so that entities like USAID who oversee some of the granting process, will change the rules for grantees who offer reproductive health services. Read more…

Anticipating Pope Francis’ Encyclical

It is difficult to find a person within the faith community who is not aware that Pope Francis is writing an encyclical letter (a high level of papal teaching) on the environment. Given his popularity, his choosing the name of Francis – the patron saint of those who promote ecology – and the fact that there has never been such a document in the history of the Catholic Church, it is not surprising that the anticipation is building.

But what might he say? Pope Francis has offered some ideas, and he will undoubtedly build on what has been said before, particularly on statements made by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II. Read more…