Voices of WRJ: Parashat Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach

by Diane Frichol

This Shabbat, we celebrate Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach, the Shabbat that falls in the middle of the Pesach week. This is a time where we break from the normal cycle of the Torah and we enjoy three special readings, one that is a reading from Exodus 33:12-34:26, which covers the period immediately after the sin of the Golden Calf. There is also a special Haftarah portion that we read and at this time, we also chant from Shir HaShirim–Song of Songs, one of the five Biblical scrolls known as the Megillot.

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Medical Marijuana: How do we know it works?

By Jane Marcus

I was setting my seder table, polishing Miriam’s cup, and thinking about my friend Susan Gaskill. Passover was her favorite holiday. She wrote the hagadah we use and loved to dance like Miriam with her timbrels. She loved being Jewish once she found her heritage after having been deprived of it as a child.

Susan’s big impact on me and on Beth Am Women, the sisterhood of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills California, was how she confronted death with courage and dignity and inspired us to take action in support of the medical use of marijuana.

You can see and hear Susan tell her story on youtube in a video we recorded in 1998 when we first began to learn how marijuana helped Susan fight the AIDS virus that she had contracted through a blood transfusion.

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Voices of WRJ: Parshat Acharei Mot

by Sheilah Abramson-Miles

As I read this week’s parashah, particularly Leviticus 18, my mind returned to an incident in my life long ago. I grew up in a traditional Jewish household attending a traditional synagogue where I was one of the first females in my congregation to attend our community Hebrew school. I made an appointment with my Rabbi to discuss becoming a Bat Mitzvah but I was not prepared for his answer (indeed, his explanation rather traumatized me). He told me that since I was a women and “unclean once a month,” I could not become a Bat Mitzvah and should never touch a Torah. I sadly accepted his dictate. I had no choice.

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Equal work deserves equal pay

Today is Equal Pay Day

Who would believe that in 2014 we’d still be discussing gender-based pay discrimination? Certainly when Congress passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, our lawmakers and the nation believed that we had taken major strides towards closing the wage gap. Did you know that the wage gap hasn’t budged in 10 years? Women who work full-time year-round make 77 cents for every dollar their male counterpart makes. And it’s even worse for women of color — African American women make 64 cents for every dollar their white male counterpart makes, and for Latina women, it’s 54 cents. This appalling, persistent discrimination needs action.

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equal pay graph

Reform Leaders Call on Senate to End Gender-Based Wage Discrimination

On Friday, WRJ Executive Director, Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, and Director of the Commission on Social Action, Barbara Weinstein sent a letter to Senators urging them to vote in favor of the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 84) when it is considered on Equal Pay Day, April 8, 2014. The Paycheck Fairness Act is an important step towards closing the staggering persistent pay gap between male and female workers. What follows is the press release accompanying the letter.

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 4, 2014 – Today in anticipation of an upcoming vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 84), Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism, and Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, sent the following letter to Senators urging their support of this crucial legislation.

Dear Senator,

On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose over 900 congregations across North America include 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis and Women of Reform Judaism, which represents over 65,000 Reform Jewish women, we strongly urge you to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 84). This bill would mitigate deep-rooted gender-based wage discrimination by supplementing the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and by barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages.

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Voices of WRJ: Parashat M’tzora

by Alexis Rothschild

Parashat M’tzora (Restoring Ritual Purity) completes the laws of purity presented in the last week’s parashah. For many women, this portion presents some troubling issues of ritual purity, but upon close examination, one realizes that these laws may have helped women and children to live healthier lives at a time when disease spread rapidly, life expectancy was short, and infant mortality was commonplace.

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Double Booked: Perspectives from the President of WRJ

This piece originally appeared on March 25, 2014 for the RACblog’s special Double Booked series.

With a demanding professional career managing the ethics and compliance training, communications and external engagement for a Fortune 500 company, some people think I am crazy for having agreed to serve as the President of Women of Reform Judaism.  Sometimes I would have to agree, but mostly I prefer to think that I am incredibly lucky.  It’s true that I don’t end up with much down time, but WRJ brought my life into balance when I worked in a male-dominated profession, and continues to give me a perspective on our world that I would never have otherwise achieved.

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Voices of WRJ: Parashat Tazria

by Sandy Adland

Impurity, isolation, inequality, oh my! This week’s Torah portion, Tazria, addresses two areas: ritual impurity associated with the blood of childbirth, and the diagnosis of certain skin ailments and eruptions that would render a person to be ritually impure. In regard to these situations, the women in Tazria are portrayed in a negative light but WRJ must continue to affirm how important, beautiful, loved and appreciated our daughters and sisters in the Reform Jewish world are.

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Supreme Court facade.

Reform Leaders Weigh in on Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Cases at Supreme Court

On the occasion of today’s oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Corp. v. Sebelius, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism jointly released the following statement:

As rabbis deeply committed to religious liberty as well as to reproductive rights, we are proud that our organizations have joined an amicus brief in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Corp. v. Sebelius, defending both the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate and the right of all people to live according to the teachings of their faith. Alongside over 25 of our faith partners, we argued in that brief for a vigorous interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) – a law we played a key role in crafting the 1990s – that protects individuals’ right to religious freedom. The United States has long modeled religious freedom, and maintaining the current framework of religious free exercise protections ensures a standard of liberty unparalleled in the world. It is due to this understanding of the separation of church and state and religious freedom that Jews and other members of religious minorities have been able to thrive in this country.

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WRJ Funds Grants to Encourage Female Enrollment at URJ Sci-Tech Academy

The WRJ press release was circulated on March 25, 2014.

New York, NY, March 25, 2014 – As the enrollment level of boys surpasses that of girls for the inaugural summer at the URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) has made a $5,000 grant from its YES (Youth, Education, & Special Projects) Fund to provide scholarships for girl participants.

The scholarships are meant to encourage and support the participation of girls in science and technology, which have traditionally been male-dominated fields. Each scholarship recipient will receive $500 toward registration at the camp this summer.

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