Tag Archives: International Affairs

Why is this night different? Ending slavery in our time.

By Maurice I. Middleberg, Executive Director, Free the Slaves

The Jewish people have a special connection to the curse of slavery and to its eradication. At the heart of our history is the Exodus.

“ Avadim hayinu – We were slaves,” the Torah teaches.

At Pesach, we rightly relax and celebrate the freedom we enjoy. But the fight is not over. Slavery persists.

Worldwide, between 21 and 30 million people live in a state of actual slavery. More than half of slaves are in Asia, with another fifth in Africa; and, yes, slavery persists in the United States. More than half of slaves are women and girls. About 25 percent are children. A fifth are sex slaves and the rest are trapped in forced labor.   Read more…

President Obama Speaks at Nuclear Security Summit

President Obama spoke last week at a news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. They addressed the news conference together, highlighting the importance of both preventing nuclear terrorism and working with other nations with the same goal.  Read more…

21 Facts for the 21st Annual World Water Day

This past Saturday, March 22nd, marked the 21st annual World Water Day.  What is World Water Day, you ask? World Water Day has been held annually on March 22nd since 1993, when the United Nations General Assembly designated the day as the first World Water Day.  World Water Day is an opportunity to focus on the importance of access to freshwater for everyone on the planet and to highlight the millions of people living without access to clean water around the globe.  This year’s World Water Day focused on the intersection of water and energy, and the crucial impacts both have on alleviating poverty worldwide. Read more…

European Parliment protest

Anti-LGBT Law Voted Down in Lithuania

Earlier this year, in light of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I reflected on our nation’s commitment to the rights and equality of all people. As members of the Jewish community, we have always understood that is not only our right, but our responsibility to be advocates in our community and to speak out against injustice. Yet, we continue to watch members of our global community be denied the basic human rights we value so supremely in the United States: the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Last week, lawmakers in Lithuania voted against a bill that would outlaw LGBT pride parades, along with public speeches, campaign materials and audio-visual materials perceived to be in support of the rights of LGBT individuals. Much like the “anti-gay propaganda,” bill introduced in Russia, this measure would have stripped the right of expression and stigmatized the LGBT community. Read more…

International Religious Freedom: Learning from Esther

Hamentaschen, costumes and mishloach manot, oh my!  We are just a few days away from celebrating the holiday of Purim, which means gathering in our synagogues for Purim schpiels and carnivals.  Purim is a fun holiday for kids and grown-ups alike, and connects to many of the social justice themes we care about as Reform Jews, including the death penalty, women’s rights and anti-Semitism.  Another social justice value that is ever-present in the story of Purim is the importance of religious freedom. Read more…

Anti-Semitism in Ukraine

In response to several anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine, the site of ongoing social upheaval, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement:

“The events in Ukraine are deeply concerning for all who value human rights. We pray that the unrest will be resolved in a peaceful and democratic manner and without further loss of life. At the same time, we are also greatly troubled by several recent incidents of anti-Semitism that have shaken the Ukrainian Jewish community. The vandalism including swastikas and graffiti reading ‘Death to the Jews’ on the synagogue in Simferopol in the Crimea region this past Friday is unacceptable and serves as a bitter reminder that anti-Semitism continues to plague too many Jewish communities.  Read more…

Climate summit banner

Climate Conversations: The UN GLOBE Climate Summit

“The planet is warming at an alarming rate. There is no emergency room for sick planets. We have to engage in the preventative care that makes it possible to avoid the worst, most catastrophic effects of climate change.”Senator Markey at the GLOBE Climate Legislation Summit

Last week public officials and leaders from over 50 countries came together in Washington, D.C. for the 2nd GLOBE Climate Legislation Summit hosted by longtime environmental advocate, Senator Ed Markey. The goal of the summit was to discuss how legislators can best develop, pass and implement national laws on climate change and forestry. Participating legislators also discussed the potential for international agreements in anticipation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Paris in 2015. Read more…

Israel Update: Chancellor Merkel’s Visit to Israel and the Peace Process

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet visited Israel for 24 hours on Monday, February 24th.  Chancellor Merkel told reporters, “We have come here with almost the whole of our new government, and we wanted to show you in this way that this is indeed a very strong friendship.”  The visit also kicked off preparations for the celebration of fifty years of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel, which began on May 12, 1965.  On Tuesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres presented Chancellor Merkel with the Presidential Medal of Distinction, Israel’s highest civilian award. Read more…