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Last weekend, a handful of RAC staffers made a trek from the snowy northeast to Alabama, where they joined thousands converging on Selma to observe the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Carrying a RAC banner, they joined a crowd in a symbolic reenactment of a march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where civil rights activists 50 years ago met a violent, now-infamous confrontation with police. But historical commemoration was not the only theme of the weekend. Diverse social justice organizations led programming ranging from educational community organizing workshops to impassioned religious gatherings. A bipartisan Congressional delegation led by Rep. John Lewis discussed using policy to address voting rights, systemic poverty, and criminal justice reform. And a multicultural, interfaith crowd gathered in a small, historic Reform synagogue to honor the Jewish commitment to the civil rights movement, past, present, and future.
As we sit at our Passover Seders, we relive the story of how our ancestors were slaves in the land of Egypt, and how they were freed. Our history of slavery and redemption calls on us to speak up against injustice in our world today, especially when it comes to workers’ rights. Modern-day slavery continues to be a scourge on humanity worldwide, and it is imperative that we take action to end it. We also should not lose sight of the national policies we can enact to ensure that workers who are employed in the open marketplace are treated with justice.
I’ve loved working at the RAC these past six months and one of the highlights of my time at the RAC so far has been our L’Taken social justice seminars for high school students, where nearly 300 Reform Jewish teens come to Washington, D.C. for a weekend to learn about social justice, lobby on Capitol Hill and get inspiration to be lifelong Jewish advocates. Now, when I first applied for this job, I wasn’t particularly excited about L’Taken. While the idea of engaging high school students on important social justice issues sounded appealing, I thought back to how my classmates behaved in high school. Fortunately, it turned out I was wrong and running six L’Takens the past three months has reminded me why I love working for the RAC so much.
Earlier today, Anat Hoffman, the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center, called on American Jews to stand with her as she votes in Israel’s elections by voting in the World Zionist Congress elections. To vote in the World Zionist Congress elections, click here, and to learn more about the elections and what’s at stake, click here. In addition, we’ll have coverage of the Israeli elections on the RACblog on Wednesday, so stay tuned!
When we sit down for the retelling of the Exodus story at our Passover Seder each year, we are both retelling and reliving that experience. As Jews, we are taught that “in every generation, all of us are obliged to regard ourselves as if we had personally gone forth from the Land of Egypt.” Victoria Levi, who we met in Selma while commemorating Bloody Sunday and hearing from inspiring Jewish activists like Peter Yarrow, inspired me with her story.
We often talk about climate change and environmental initiatives to combat the human-made disruption of our earth’s systems and exhaustion of its resources. However, while climate change is a threat that affects us all as sea levels rise and we experience more frequent extreme weather events, people of color and low-income people across the United States and the world will be disproportionately burdened by the most damaging impacts of a changing and less habitable climate. Less economically stable communities are unable to bounce back from the devastation to infrastructure caused by extreme weather events like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Similarly, communities of color are significantly more likely to live near toxic waste facilities and to unequally come into contact with polluted air and water.
As Congress and the administration consider different approaches to allocating the funding to run our government, we are here to discuss the budget negotiations on our country’s most vulnerable populations. We believe that the federal budget is a moral document. We want to support vital domestic programs that respond to the needs of people in need. In Deuteronomy, one of the five books of Moses, we are taught “If... there is a needy person among you... do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your kin. Rather, you must open your hand and lend whatever is sufficient. “Let us pray that our budget will keep maintain these ideals. As people of faith, we advocate for a just and compassionate federal budget that will promote the dignity of all Americans and will protect the vulnerable. Yet let us also be called to act: given this knowledge given to us during this webinar and our passions, let us “speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.” Let us advocate for a budget that will do just that. We pray for a budget that well help all Americans and ensure a bright future for the country.
We are all watching climate change happen. Wherever you live, you are experiencing some of the effects of climate disruption. If you’re living in a coastal area, you know that sea levels are rising and your community is more vulnerable to floods than ever before. If you live in the Midwest or California or Israel, you would know that droughts are becoming longer and more severe. And no matter where your community calls home, you are most likely keenly aware of the increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes, storms, typhoons, and other extreme weather events. In these ways alone, you are a witness to our changing climate.
One of my favorite things about Reform Judaism is how much the Reform Movement accepts multicultural families and celebrates diversity. The Reform Movement has always stood for inclusion and acceptance of all types and ways of being Jewish, and our wholehearted embrace of interfaith families is a demonstration of our commitment to pluralism even within Reform Judaism.
Israelis went to the polls to elect a new Knesset for the 20th time in its history on Tuesday, in what was supposed to be one of the closest elections in years. When voting ended at 10 p.m., exit polling predictions showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, Likud, in a dead heat with the center-left Zionist Union opposition party. When Israelis woke up Wednesday and the votes had been counted, it became clear that Netanyahu’s Likud had won a decisive victory, with 30 seats in Knesset compared to Zionist Union’s 24. Isaac Herzog, the leader of Zionist Union, who had been hoping to become Prime Minister and form the next Israeli government, called Netanyahu earlier Wednesday to concede the election.