Three Policy Changes to Support this Mother’s Day



On Mother’s Day, which will be celebrated on May 8, we will take time to honor our mothers and all of the love and support they give us. As we take time to honor important women in our lives, it is important to remember that there are still many challenges that mothers, especially working mothers, face today. Here are three different policy solutions that you can support this Mother’s Day to help mothers and their families:

  1. Close the Gender Wage Gap: The gender wage gap has been a problem for decades, and has persisted even since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963. Last fall, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau found that women are on average paid 79 cents to every dollar paid to men. This number is even worse for mothers, as on average they only make 70 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. Because of this disparity in mother’s wages, there isn’t a more opportune time to advocate for the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 1619/ S.872) which would deter pay discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and by barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages.
  2. End Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace: Although the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed by Congress in 1978, there is still much work to be done to ensure that pregnant women are not discriminated against in the workplace. Without accommodations, pregnant women face unpaid leave, lost benefits and even job loss. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2654/S. 1512), or PWFA, would require employees to provide reasonable, temporary accommodations to pregnant workers so that they can remain in the workforce throughout their pregnancy. This Mother’s Day, urge your Members of Congress to protect expecting mothers from discrimination in the workplace.
  3. End Violence Against Women Around the World: One out of three women worldwide will be physically, sexually or otherwise abused during her lifetime, with rates as high as 70% in some countries. Violence against women is a human rights violation that devastates lives, fractures communities and prevents women from fully contributing to the economic development of their countries. The International Violence Against Women Act, or I-VAWA (H.R. 1340/S.713) would provide concrete tools to change the circumstances that lead to violence against women and girls. This Mother’s Day, urge your Members of Congress to end violence against women globally.

Jewish text teaches us that, “A society and a family are like a pile of stones. If you remove one stone, the pile will collapse. If you add a stone to it, it will stand” (Midrash Rabbah Genesis 100:7). By honoring our mothers and taking action to improve their lives, we are adding a stone to the pile, further strengthening it. To learn about how the Reform Movement has supported women and mothers through its policy, read this article.

To learn more about women’s issues, visit the RAC’s webpage or Women of Reform Judaism’s issue page.

This post originally appeared on the RAC’s Blog. 

Thoughts From the EUPJ Conference in London: We’re All In This Together!



by Sandy Abramson

I was lucky enough to attend the Biennial Convention of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ), which took place in London April 14-17. The theme was “Building Bridges, Spanning the Jewish World and Beyond.” As a new WRJ representative to the UN, a former WRJ board member, and a frequent visitor to Paris, going to this convention was a great first-hand look at the accomplishments and challenges that characterize European Progressive Jews today.

My husband Steve and I were among participants from 29 nations attending the conference. They ranged from Argentina and Belgium to India, South Africa, Italy, the FSU, Hungary, Spain, Denmark, France, Germany, the UK, Israel, and more. Our own WRJ leaders, Marla, Blair, Susan, and Lynn, were there, and it was great to be with them! Read more…

Two Cents on America’s Redesigned Currency



Last week, some big news came out of the United States Department of the Treasury.  Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that there will be a redesign of the twenty, ten and five dollar notes to feature women who have played prominent roles in American history. The front of the new twenty dollar bill will feature the portrait of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, and will move the image of former president Andrew Jackson to the back. The new ten dollar bill will still feature Alexander Hamilton on the front, but the back will now celebrate women’s suffrage with portraits of Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul. The new five dollar bill will retain President Lincoln, but the back will now honor historic events that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial, featuring Martin Luther King Jr., Marian Anderson and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Read more…

Voices of WRJ – Acharei Mot I



by Linn Ullenbrauck

The 7th day of Passover is a pretty special time. This week is unique as there are two different parashahs read during this Shabbat. For the 7th day of Passover there is a special reading from B’Shalach. In this portion we recount Pharaoh’s anger after the loss of his son. He decides to pursue the Israelites and encounters them at the edge of the Red Sea. God gives Moses the ability to stretch his staff and the sea parts so the Israelites can cross into the land of Canaan. God stops Pharaoh and his men with a pillar of fire but then the fire dies down and allows the Egyptians to go after the Israelites.

Unbeknownst to them, God had other plans. Once the Israelites reached the other side, Moses stretched his staff and a miracle happened that the sea roared back to its original state. It is in this parashah that a poem is read on the 7th day of Passover called The Song of the Sea. The Song of the Sea was supposedly sung by the Israelites after they crossed the Red Sea in safety. It celebrates the destruction of the Egyptian army during the crossing, and looks forward to the future conquest of Canaan. The Song of the Sea is considered one of the oldest texts describing the Exodus.

Read more…

Voices of WRJ: Yom Rishon shel Pesach



by Marla Goldberg

As we sit down at our Sederim tonight, we will be observing the most celebrated holiday, by most Jews, most often. How ironic it seems to me, to always hear about those not affiliated, not claiming their Judaism, when I have spent a minimum of six to eight weeks, observing the grocery store shelves fill wide and deep with items we wait for all year. You know the ones, “Kosher for Passover” food, most of which is never bought at any other time of the year.

As we consider this week’s parashah, we begin with our journey leaving Egypt. Two areas were remarkable to me and I share my gleanings. The first is that having lived in Egypt for 430 years exactly, now was the time. Literally, a turning point—this is described as a night of vigil—not only for all of us but also for God. I believe this to be the main theme of this holiday. The Hebrew word shimmurim, keeping watch, is used. As pointed out in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary‘s translation, we are “all in” this reciprocal relationship with God. God watches out for us and makes the Exodus happen, and in turn, we must attentively follow detailed rituals to mark this astonishing event.

Read more…

State Paid Leave Grants Provide Fair Benefits to Real Families



By Tyler Dratch

At November’s Assembly, Women of Reform Judaism passed a resolution on Paid Family and Medical Leave. Though we’ve seen significant progress toward worker justice, too many workers still must choose between their health or the health of their families and their jobs and financial security.

While the FAMILY Act (H.R. 1439/S. 786), which would create a federal paid family leave program, has stalled in Congress, legislators are finding other ways to expand access to paid leave across the country. More than 34 members of the House of Representatives and 16 Senators have signed letters urging the Labor and Appropriations committees to include $2.2 billion for the Department of Labor’s paid leave partnership and $1 million for the Women’s Bureau to issue their third round of paid leave research grants. These two programs represent an important step in helping states and cities around the country perform the work necessary to implement these pro-family policies effectively and efficiently. Read more…

Jewish NGO Caucus Meets With Natalia Gherman, Candidate for United Nations Secretary-General



by Leslie Brier

For the first time in the history of the United Nations, candidates for the next Secretary-General have to post their résumés, answer questions in open hearings, and declare publicly why they want this position.

The United Nations Charter describes the Secretary-General as “chief administrative officer” of the Organization, who shall act in that capacity and perform “such other functions as are entrusted” to him or her by the Security Council, General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and other United Nations organs. The Charter also empowers the Secretary-General to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his or her opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

Read more…

Voices of WRJ: M’tzora



by Sheilah Abramson-Miles

My husband is a rabbi. He dreads this Shabbat. Why? Of all the Torah portions, M’tzora and Tazria, which we read last week, are the most thematically difficult for a modern Reform Jew. M’tzora deals with purification for leprosy, discharges from sexual organs, and dealing with blight in houses. Where is k’dushah (spirituality) here? How can a rabbi relate this to any person or situation in her or his temple?

There must be an answer; there always is. Perhaps we can make a connection to the rhythm of our Jewish lives. We only must look to our Jewish calendar. Pesach begins next Shabbat. Of all our festivals, Pesach is the most popular, the most observed. More Jews make or participate in a Seder than any other of our annual rituals. Why? In Hebrew, Pesach is Z’man Heruteinu, our season of freedom. This message of freedom has resonated with us for 4,000 years. If we truly immerse ourselves into the Haggadah, we take a spiritual journey from slavery to freedom. How? During the Seder we proclaim “Avadim hei’inuu, we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt,” not only our ancestors 4,000 years ago but, through the medium of the Seder, our gantze mishpacha, our entire Jewish family! By retelling the story to each new generation, by eating fresh raw horseradish root (if we dare) we share a little bit of the physical pain.

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All of Our Reasons for Closing the Wage Gap



On April 12, people all across the United States observed Equal Pay Day, which is the day each year that symbolizes when women’s earnings “catch up” to what their male counterparts earned in the previous year.

The gender wage gap has been a problem for decades, and has persisted even since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963. Last fall, new data was released by the U.S. Census Bureau announcing women are on average paid 79 cents to every dollar paid to men. At the current rate of change, women will not reach full pay equity until the year 2059. There are so many reasons to care about closing the gender wage gap. Here are a few of mine: Read more…

WRJ Wilkenfeld Seminar: Day Two



This week we are thrilled to share reports from London, UK where 20 Jewish women leaders are meeting for the first WRJ Wilkenfeld International Women’s Leadership Seminar. Read about day one.

“Leadership is your values in action.”

This quote from Dr. Madelyn Katz set the tone for another very busy day. You’d think we’ve been here a week, but it was only day two. At breakfast this morning, Seminar participants were scattered in pairs and fours all over the restaurant, connected in animated conversations, bonding after only a few hours together yesterday.

We began the morning with visual tefillah, a first for many of the women. Some melodies were clearly unfamiliar depending on home nations…but Hebrew connected us all. We sang Hatikvah together in a unified voice without hesitation, but many of us with tears in our eyes.

Read more…