Tag Archives: Machon Kaplan

Education Isn’t a Given for Everyone

By Noa Maltzman

The week before I started as a Machon Kaplan intern, I was having a conversation with my mom about education and graduation. It began with my mom saying that she thought it was silly that next year she would have to go to my sister Mica’s eighth grade graduation. She thought it was weird that schools even celebrate graduating from eighth grade.  So I pointed out that she went to my fifth grade graduation: “Did you find that silly?”  My mom replied, “Yes! Because Dad and I knew you were going to graduate from fifth grade, just like we know Mica will graduate from eighth grade and from high school, and that both of you will graduate from college.” We ended the conversation there. That my parents assumed I’d make it through high school and college wasn’t much of a surprise to me.

In my first few weeks as an intern at The Peace Alliance, I have already realized that what my mom told me is not a given for everyone: I am fortunate to be a part of a family where we can safely assume that a college degree is affordable and attainable. Of course, I already knew before starting my internship that only about 40% of working aged Americans hold a college degree.  What I didn’t know was that one reason some people don’t make it to college is because sometimes existing law can make it very challenging for students to afford a college education.

I first learned this when I started my internship and was assigned the task of creating a two-page fact sheet on H.R. 2521, the REAL Act of 2015. The Restoring Education and Learning Act of 2015 is a bill to restore Pell Grant eligibility for federal and state incarcerated individuals (Pell Grants are federal grants, up to $5,500, that are given to undergraduate students to help them finance their college educations).

Since 1994, incarcerated individuals have not been eligible for Pell Grants and the number of prison college education programs has drastically decreased because of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.  Supporters of the REAL Act point to research that shows inmates with access to college education and degrees are less likely to commit more crimes when they are released and are better able to contribute to their communities.

Since the earliest days of Judaism, learning and teaching have been important values. One of the 613 commandments in the Torah orders us “to learn Torah and teach it” (Deuteronomy 6:7).  We even have a prayer that one is meant to say before learning Torah: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, asher kid’shanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu la’asok b’divrei Torah. We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, who calls us to holiness through mitzvot, commanding us to engage in the study of Torah.

These examples of how our tradition urges us to go and learn might be specific to learning Torah, but I think we can translate them to modern times, and more broadly interpret them to illustrate the value of education and learning in a society. I believe now that it is our duty as members of the Jewish community to follow those that came before us and urged us to go and learn: Let’s work to make it possible for everyone — even those incarcerated—to have access to education and opportunities to learn.

Noa Maltzman


Noa Maltzman is a rising sophomore at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. She is a 2015 Machon Kaplan participant, and interned at the The Peace Alliance.


The Arrogance of Inaction

By Jonah Baskin

In this week’s parsha, parshat Eikev, Moses continues his final speech to the Israelites before they enter the land, much of which is devoted to admonishments to remember the mitzvot and the various punishments for failure to comply.  Moses cautions the Israelites not to forget that God ultimately ensures their prosperity, “lest when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses, and live within them, and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that is yours is multiplied… you will say in your heart: ‘My own power and the might of my own hand have produced this wealth for me.’” (Deuteronomy, 8:12-17) This caution against arrogance is interesting because it represents a unique strain of the vice that is easy to forget about.  Read more…

Support abortion access

For Texas, Reproductive Justice is a Numbers Game

By Megan Sims

If I drive east from the house I grew up in for five minutes, I will go by an abortion clinic. If I drive west from the house I grew up in for five hours, I will be in Lubbock, a moderately sized city, home to Texas Tech University and the economic hub of the largest contiguous cotton-growing region in the country. One-fifth of the city’s population lives in poverty. Read more…

Equal Work Deserves Equal Pay

Wage Discrimination Continues to Cast a Shadow

Even in 2015, equal pay for equal work for women is not a reality in the United States and it’s no different for female professional soccer players. The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) only pays its players between $6,000 and $30,000 per year, while Major League Soccer (MLS) players earn a minimum salary of $50,000 per year. These low salaries act as a serious deterrent to players starting the game. Jazmine Reeves, 2014 Rookie of the Year for the NWSL’s Boston Breakers, had to leave the world of professional soccer because she was unable to get by on her $11,000 salary (that’s less than annual earnings on the U.S. minimum wage!).
Read more…

Women of the Wall

A Feminist and the Wall

By Joelle Leib

During my time at Scripps College, a women’s college in Claremont, California, I have learned much about feminism and the critical fight for gender equality. Luckily for me and my female millennial peers, American women have made tremendous strides in the past few decades, so much so that Hillary Clinton is now a frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary. Yet as someone who also identifies as a Zionist as well as a feminist, a great deal must still be accomplished before these two identities can be completely reconciled. Read more…


Making DREAMs a reality

By Jenny Swift

When I was a senior in high school, the question I was asked by family and friends more times than I would like was where I would be attending college next year. For students who are undocumented the question might be different: what will you be doing next year? It’s a small difference, but a noticeable one. Tens of thousands of children who have grown up in this county and have attended and graduated from public schools are stuck, without the opportunity to advance, because the documentation required to apply to college, and more importantly, federal aid, is often out of the grasp of students whose parents brought them to this country when they were small children. Future doctors, lawyers, teachers, and the scientist who will cure cancer are all unable to reach their true potential due to immigration laws that keep children down, not raise them up to achieve the American dream. Read more…

Workers protesting low wages with a sign saying "Hard work deserves fair pay!"

A Minimum Wage of Dignity

By Elvera Gurevich

At the ripe age of 20, I have spent almost a quarter of my life already in the workforce and have always worked for a minimum wage salary or less. As a student, this salary is “do-able;” the money I make usually goes to optional expenses like gas in my car or going out to eat with friends. My parents are still paying my rent, my tuition, my health insurance, my phone bill, etc. Eventually, I will be responsible for paying these expenses, but hopefully that will be post-graduation and with a job making more than a minimum wage salary. Read more…

LGBT Flag Button with Business Concept Stick Figures

From L’Taken to Machon Kaplan and Beyond: My Advocacy for LGBT Equality

By Abby Kirshbaum

When I was in 10th grade, I attended the Religious Action Center’s LTaken Seminar with my confirmation class. On the last day of the trip we got to lobby to one of our senators on an issue that appealed most to us. Little did I know, the legislation in which I lobbied, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), would become such a huge part of my life. Read more…