Tag Archives: International Affairs

Ratifying the Disabilities Treaty: Bringing the Shameful Wall of Exclusion Down

This Saturday, July 26th, will mark the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed in to law by President George H.W. Bush.  President Bush ended his remarks that day by saying: “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”  He was, of course, alluding to another wall that had only recently fallen—the Berlin Wall.  I was born a few months after both those historical events took place and I am often struck that at twenty-three years old, my friends and I are the first group of Americans to grow up in an America where it is illegal to discriminate against a person with a disability.   Read more…

The Power of One

There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 1,440 minutes in a day, and 525,600 minutes in a year. In just 60 seconds, 1 child in Africa will die due to malaria. If this doesn’t change, how many children will die this year?

Read more…


#ActOnClimate: One Year of the Climate Action Plan

On June 25, 2013, President Obama announced his Climate Action Plan, aimed at reducing our nation’s impact on the environment and curbing climate change. So where are we now, one year later?

In September, the Administration rolled out a proposed rule for carbon emissions limits for new power plants and just earlier this month, a proposal for existing power plants. Despite some push back, the Obama Administration and the EPA have held true to their promise from one year ago to respond to the most dire effects of climate change by developing regulations to mitigate our impact, shaping methods to make our nation more resilient and better able to adapt to our changing world, and demonstrating leadership in the international arena. We know all too well that while the United States is one of the largest emitters in the world, more vulnerable countries suffer the greatest impacts.

That is not to say that the United States is not also feeling the effects of climate disruption. In the recently released 2014 National Climate Assessment report, a team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee conducted an extensive review of how climate change poses severe challenges in every region and every sector of the United States. The report concluded that we are not immune to the effects of climate change, and while once considered a “distant threat,” we are feeling the effects now.

How does climate change affect you? Why do you #ActOnClimate? On twitter, facebook or your social media outlet of choice, post a picture or a story about why you personally care about our changing climate:

I will #ActOnClimate to…

I #ActOnClimate because… Read more…

Summer Camp Season is the Best Time to Talk about Malaria Prevention

A few weeks ago, I dropped my sister off at URJ Camp OSRUI for her fourth year on staff.  Like many Jewish children and young adults, summer camp is our home away from home—the two months for which we wait all year.  This is the first summer in nearly fifteen years we haven’t been at camp together, and I’ve heckled my sister with all sorts of questions.  Did you find your rain gear in duffel bags?  How’s the food?  Are your campers homesick?  And of course: Did you pack enough bug spray for the summer? Read more…

What Does Korach Teach Us?

By Leah Citrin

When “Ken” grew up in northern Kenya, he faced many hardships. In a part of the country that is not agriculturally productive, the people in this region often felt neglected by the government. As a society of nomadic pastoralists, Ken’s community lived without internet, phones, or access to education. The culture around him viewed LGBT issues as “western” and individuals who came out as gay were met with violence and discrimination. As an LGBT activist, “Ken” must mask his name and the name of his organization to avoid imprisonment or even death. In order to express one part of his identity, he must hide a different part of it.

Like “Ken,” Korach, the main character of this week’s Torah portion, sees an injustice and calls the people to action: “All the community—all of them—are holy,” Korach challenges Moses and Aaron, “and God is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the congregation of God?” Korach’s challenge, that each person has value and holiness, resonates with us today. We, as American Reform Jews, value each individual and his or her abilities and contributions. We believe that there are different kinds of leaders and we fight for justice in the form of equality. In living out these beliefs, we eliminated the ritual hierarchy in Judaism by erasing the distinctions between Priests, Levites, and Israelites. So we can empathize with Korach. Read more…

Interfaith Dialogue with Gabr Fellows

On Friday morning, the Religious Action Center had the privilege of hosting the 2014 Gabr Fellows.  The 2014 fellows are part of East-West: The Art of Dialogue Initiative, initiative project of The Shafik Gabr Foundation.  The fellows spent time travelling in Egypt together and are currently travelling in the United States.  You can see their itinerary here.

The fellows visited the RAC and met with myself and Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center, to learn about interfaith activities in Washington, D.C., and to hear about the interfaith advocacy work that we do.  We shared information on who we are, why we care about interfaith work, and what we do as an organization.  Read more…

Caring for the Most Needy: Children Crossing the Border, Alone

It would be difficult to conceptualize a more abject situation than this: a child, escaping poverty or violence in Central America, travelling to a foreign country, alone. But in the past few month, the number of children doing just that has increased dramatically, with a record 47,017 children under the age of 18 apprehended on the US-Mexico border since October 2013. Read more…

Working to Ensure Reproductive Rights for all Women

This blog originally appeared at WRJblog.

Last month, WRJ Executive Director Rabbi Marla J. Feldman and RAC Deputy Director Rachel Laser signed onto a letter urging President Obama to reinterpret the Helms Amendment, which bans American foreign aid for abortion services in all circumstances. Alongside a number of other faith leaders, these Reform Movement leaders called on President Obama to instruct the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to interpret the Helms Amendment to allow American foreign aid to be used for abortion services in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment of the mother.

The letter reads, in part:

“When a pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, or when a pregnancy is a threat to the life of a woman, safe abortion can and should be made available and accessible, and U.S. foreign assistance should support such access. Unfortunately, the Helms amendment does just the opposite: it denies millions of women and girls access to safe abortion services. While ultimately we seek elimination of this law, at a minimum the executive branch of the U.S. government should clarify existing law so that in the cases of rape, incest and life endangerment, U.S. foreign assistance is allowed to support abortion access.”

Read the full letter here.

Rachel Laser further explained that,  “abortions in the case of rape, incest and where the woman’s life is in danger are not for the purpose of ‘family planning.’ It is also worth noting that every Republican president who enacted the Mexico City policy made exception to the restrictions in cases of rape, incest, and if the woman’s life is in danger. In directing the State Department and USAID to interpret the Helms Amendment, the President would be acting well within the limits of the law. If the Helms Amendment was intended to be a total ban on abortion funding, Congress would have written the language that way, as it has done before.” Read more…