Tag Archives: International Affairs

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.

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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…

Civil Rights

‘Make it Happen’ on International Women’s Day and Bloody Sunday

By Marla Feldman

A version of this post originally appeared on WRJ Blog.

March 7, 2015 marks the commemoration of Bloody Sunday – that day in Selma, AL 50 years ago that is seared into our visual memory, even for those who were not there or not even alive at that time. Hundreds of civil rights activists standing toe to toe with hostile state troopers wielding billy clubs and an angry mob ready to attack. Like Moses standing before Pharoah, they choked down their fears and dared to ‘speak truth to power.’

Many heroes joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Edmund Pettus Bridge that day and throughout the struggle for civil rights. Our nation’s soul owes them a debt of gratitude: the freedom riders who risked their lives in the cause of justice; the students who faced gauntlets of hatred for the right to go to school; the men and women who sat together at lunch counters; the lawyers who defended them and challenged unjust laws; the clergy who spoke truth from the pulpits of churches and synagogues despite bomb threats and arson; and the politicians who, finally, heard their pleas and changed their hearts. Read more…

Unpacking PM Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress earlier today to oppose a nuclear deal with Iran. The speech has been controversial due to a breach of protocol that occurred when Speaker of the House John Boehner extended the invitation to speak without consulting President Obama. Many Members of Congress boycotted the speech, but many more came to hear what Prime Minister Netanyahu had to say.

Also in attendance was RAC Director Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who issued a statement in response to the speech,

“I was grateful to hear from Prime Minister Netanyahu. The issue of Iran’s nuclear capability is of critical concern to Americans, Israelis and people around the world. This morning, Prime Minister Netanyahu made his case before the U.S. Congress and the American people. In so doing, he also clearly and rightly made an effort to address and ameliorate the partisan tensions that surrounded the speech and detracted from the real issue, which is Iran. He acknowledged the long-standing commitment of President Obama to the concerns of Israel that so clearly coincide with our own nation’s security needs and values.”

There were many different reactions to the speech, from The New York Times editorial board finding PM Netanyahu’s reasoning “unconvincing”, to the American Jewish Committee calling on world powers to “heed Israel’s warnings.”

The rest of Rabbi Pesner’s statement can be found on our website, along with our other work combatting Iranian nuclear development issues.

Snowballs Aside: Climate Change Update

This past week Senator Inhofe, the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, brought a snowball to the Senate floor to demonstrate that climate change was not real. As Jews, we believe in the importance of caring for our earth and passing it on from generation to generation as we pass on our tradition. We also know that just because winter is cold does not mean climate change is not real, happening now and effecting vulnerable communities and animals around the world.

Here are three things happening now that we should focus on instead of climate change denial: Read more…


Anti-Semitic Copenhagen Attacks Deplorable

Yesterday’s twin attacks in Copenhagen are a tragic reminder of the fragility of peace, security and pluralism. Our thoughts and prayers, of course, go out to the victims and their families. Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, issued a statement, saying: “The attacks in Copenhagen are an assault on our values and on all free and democratic societies that embrace human dignity.”

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