Today is our last day as legislative assistants at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. None of us imagined on August 20, 2013 – our very first day – that this year would have gone by so fast. It is has been an incredible honor to serve and represent our vibrant, passionate Movement in Washington, D.C.; one that we will cherish always.
In the past few days I have received numerous messages of concern from friends from all over the world. They refer to media coverage of the anti-Semitic attacks that took place in Paris and often make comparisons to World War II, such as the attacks of Kristallnacht.
First, let me be clear: These are very serious and bad events but the situation is far from being the apocalyptic crisis that one could believe when hearing CNN; I can’t help thinking of my Israeli friends who explain that life continues even when siren alerts are heard several times a day.
The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor released the International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 last week, which describes in great detail the state of religious freedom in many different countries. Identifying “Countries of Particular Concern” is one of the things the annual International Religious Freedom Report is tasked with doing. This year, Turkmenistan was added to the list of CPCs. The eight other countries on the list, all of which have been on the CPC list previously, are Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. Read more…
Chasidic tales. The foolish but pious people of Chelm. Folklore. Myths. The Jewish people is a people of storytellers. We use stories to make our points, identify moral and ethical responsibilities, and connect ourselves to an ancient tradition. Each time we hear a story, we find ourselves in it. Maybe we don’t always do this consciously, but each of us is looking for that connection; that meaning; that relevance.
The UN Climate Summit, set to take place in New York City on September 23rd, is meant to catalyze action on climate change and mobilize political will for a strong global climate treaty at the Paris 2015 United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). While international negotiations have proven challenging in the past, we need to call on our leaders to take action now.
As people of faith, we are commanded to take care of our earth and its resources. Fourteenth century Jewish scholar, Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet wrote “one is forbidden from gaining a livelihood at the expense of another’s health” (Responsa 196). We understand that as members of the Jewish community, we must live by these wise and ethical words. We must therefore advocate for a binding, global commitment that recognizes that while the poorest communities are most impacted by the consequences of climate change, they often contribute least to the problem.
Dozens of faith denominations are jointly circulating a petition calling for moral action on the issue of climate change. You can add your name to the “Faithful Call to Address Climate Change” and join the faith gatherings and events in New York City, September 20-21st.
“As we approach the UN negotiations for 2015, we prayerfully ask that the US government lead, with a commitment to:
- Legally binding solutions that reduce national greenhouse gas emissions to levels consistent with scientific recommendations that prevent the worst impacts of human induced climate change.
- Provide poor and vulnerable communities here and abroad meaningful support to build low carbon and climate-resilient societies.”
When I first began kindergarten, I was very excited about school. However, in the following years, my enthusiasm dwindled as school became a routine part of life. I failed to see my school experiences as a privilege, one I obtained solely because of the location where I lived. However, if had I lived elsewhere I may have had a much different schooling experience. If I had grown up in Malawi, I might have used a brick as my desk and shared a textbook with up to ten other children. In Nigeria, I would have struggled to learn due to the constant fear of terrorist groups breaking into my school. Or, I could have been one of the millions of children across the globe that are not even enrolled in school.
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…