Tag Archives: URJ
Robb Kushner

Why Fracking Gives Me the Heebie Jeebies

By Robb Kushner

I grew up in the heyday of the American post-war boom, when the sky was the limit, and exploitation of fossil fuels was the key to an ever-expanding future. The suburbs were being rolled out everywhere, and the Interstate highway system held the amazing promise of driving from New York to LA without ever stopping at a traffic light. And I remember my parents would say, “Now you’re cooking with gas!” when they wanted to encourage me.

In my adulthood, I’ve come to realize – bit by bit – how we need to be good stewards of the environment – that our future on the planet depends on it. We now know climate change is happening much faster than scientists had predicted. In order to “defuse the global warming time bomb” (in the phrase of climate scientist James Hansen), we must reduce carbon emissions around the world soon or risk the devastating effects of rising seas, more acidic oceans, accelerated species extinction, and more frequent and violent weather events. Read more…

frackimg well

Cracking Down on Fracking

Last week, President Obama’s administration moved to address the serious concern of potential water contamination through the controversial extractive process of hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing, also referred to “hydrofracking” and “fracking,” is a process of drilling wells deep into the ground and injecting water, sand and potentially dangerous chemicals to rupture the earth and extract natural gas. While there remain unanswered questions surrounding the technique of hydrofracking, in about 2% of fracking wells, diesel is pumped into the ground as part of the rupturing chemicals and there remains no question that diesel, as a cancer causing fossil fuel, poses significant threats to the safety and well-being of the environment and people.

Since Congress passed the 2005 Energy Policy Act, the EPA has held the authority to regulate the use of diesel in fracking through granting permits, but prior to the Obama administration’s motion to exert more control last week, it appears these regulations have not been enforced. Read more…

Jay Feinberg Receives Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award at 72nd URJ North American Biennial

Last night, Gift of Life advisor Evie Goldfine – a recipient of a stem cell donation herself – accepted the Maurice N. Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award on behalf of founder and CEO of Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, Jay Feinberg. The award is in memory of Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath, the executive director and President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations from 1943 – 1973; this award is the highest honor bestowed by the Reform Movement. Jay shares this award with other luminaries such as Michael J. Fox, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Rabbi Richard Hirsch, and Abba Eban.

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RAC logo

This Week at the RAC: Lunch in the Sukkah, Rachel Laser in HuffPo, and URJ Biennial

This week wraps up the fall holiday season, and in true RAC fashion, we were in full celebration mode. On Tuesday, we welcomed scores of friends of the RAC and former staff and interns to a pizza party lunch. As we do each year, we decorated our Sukkah with signs honoring social justice leaders. It was inspiring to look around the space and see posters with the names of not just well-known luminaries (such as Gloria Steinem and Martin Luther King, Jr.), but also the non-famous who have worked in D.C. and elsewhere to better the lives of others.

Last week, Rachel Laser wrote a piece in the Huffington Post sharing some personal reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. It’s a lovely story abouthow the March helped strengthen her renewed friendship with a childhood classmate.

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Women of Reform Judaism Centennial

Chazak Chazak V’nitchazek: Women of Reform Judaism and Social Justice

In the opening verses of Jeremiah, Chapter 1, (the haftarah reading traditionally used when this week’s Parshat Mattot is read on its own), we read: “…Before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). The rabbis asked why do we speak about just the nations if Jeremiah, like almost all the prophets, spoke primarily to the children of Israel? The JPS Bible Commentary: Haftarot (Page 258,Commentary on Jeremiah 1:5) cites David Kimhi (also known as the “RaDak,” a 12th century biblical commentator from Provence) and Rashi, who suggest that this is to remind us that we have a core religious and moral obligation to bring a prophetic witness to both the Jewish people and to the broader world.

Or in modern terminology, we are a people with both a particularist and universalist message of righteousness and justice.

From its inception, Reform Judaism sought to capture this merged universal and particular mission. And no arm of our Movement has more vividly exemplified that two-pronged role of what it means to be a light to and of the nations than Women of Reform Judaism.
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It’s That Time of Year Again…

No, I don’t mean Chanukah. No, I don’t mean the month-long slog toward Christmas. I don’t even mean the impending rush to solve our nation’s fiscal crisis before Congress and their staff tries to get home for Christmas.

No, now is the time to apply for the Commission on Social Action’s 2013 Fain Awards! What better way to mark this holiday season than by applying for a chance to highlight your congregation’s impressive social justice work at next year’s Consultation on Conscience.

Irving J. Fain, who passed away in 1970, was a passionate proponent of social justice and of the Reform Movement’s active commitment to the work of tikkun olam, serving for a decade as Chairperson of the Commission on Social Action. The Fain Awards, established in 1983 in honor of his memory, are awarded every two years to congregations whose work in the area of social justice is exemplary. Nominate your congregation to be a Fain Award winner this year!

You could join the ranks of synagogues like Temple Beth El of Chappaqua, New York, a 2011 Fain Award winner. Temple Beth El sought to forge a relationship with local Muslim organizations and created a multi-generational Muslim-Jewish dialogue. Not only did this commendable group help educate Jews and Muslims about one another, it also enabled them to create interfaith responses to crises like the war in Gaza and the flood in Pakistan.

Another 2011 Fain Award winner was the Touro Synagogue in New Orleans. The Touro Synagogue developed a deep-seated partnership with a neighboring at-risk public school through numerous initiatives such as tutoring, repairing the school building, mentoring and organizing winter coat drives. The partnership succeeded in helping to meet the needs of local school-kids and strengthened the bonds of community in the neighborhood.

If your synagogue run an excellent program like one of these, or something we’ve never seen before, apply for the 2013 Fain Awards today! Make sure you get your application in by December 31st, 2012 to be considered.



Register Today: How to Start a Food-Producing Garden

What’s been growing at Temple Emanuel in Dallas, TX? Besides cabbage, cucumbers, and pumpkins, a new love for the Earth has blossomed among preschoolers at this URJ congregation. Connecting preschoolers with Judaism through nature, the Gan Shalom Chai garden serves as the preschool’s outdoor classroom for lessons in planting, ecology, nutrition and animal science.

Temple Emanuel is just one of dozens of Reform congregations that have started food-producing gardens in their backyards. Whether congregations are looking to create a hands-on learning tool for people of any age, broaden their social justice work by donating the produce to those in need, or establish a shared space for worship and celebrations, gardens can transform congregational life. If you are interested in bringing this amazing project to your synagogue, join us on April 3 for a special webinar “Planting to Pe’ah: How-To’s of Starting a Food-Producing Garden at Your Congregation” to learn how to get started! Read more…

Rabbi Jacobs Releases Statement on Gaza Bombings

This past weekend, hundreds of rockets were fired by terrorist groups from Gaza Strip into Be’er Sheva, Tel Aviv and Ashdod.

In response to the barrage of violence, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President-elect of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

“We unequivocally condemn the launching of rockets into Israel by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. We are deeply saddened by the physical and emotional injuries sustained by those who have been terrorized and wounded by the attacks. We pray for strength for all those affected and their families. Beyond the tragic human toll taken by the attacks, this violation on a sovereign country’s borders and the continued rejection of Israel’s right to exist by its neighbor is outrageous.

“We call on all who oppose violence, no matter where they live, to join in our condemnation of these attacks and make it clear that rockets from Gaza are not the path to peace.”