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The past few weeks have brought mixed news in the realm of sexuality education. At the end of June, we wrote about a House sub-committee vote to eliminate programs proven to reduce teen and unplanned pregnancy, reduce abortion and save tax dollars in Fiscal Year 2016. Since then, a Senate sub-committee voted to advance similar cuts, proposing a budget that would significantly cut funding for the evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) and for Title X family planning centers, while increasing funding for abstinence-only until marriage programs by 300 percent. By gutting funding to family planning services for low-income individuals and undermining evidence-based programs like TPPP, these appropriations bills would leave millions of Americans without information and services to keep themselves safe and healthy.
by Sharon Mann The phrase “what goes around, comes around” came to mind recently as I remembered back five years to the time I saw my daughter, Ayelet, off on a flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto, Canada. She was headed to URJ Camp George, a Reform Jewish summer camp where she would spend the summer as a camper, part of an Israeli youth delegation from the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. Now, she’s graduated from Mechinat Gal’s Pre-Army Academy, a post-high school Israeli gap year program that emphasizes volunteer work, leadership training, and enrichment studies. As a staff member at The Hannaton Educational Center, she’s come full circle, welcoming North American teens from NFTY in Israel to her home, eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel). At Hannaton, the teenagers participate in a tikkun olam chavaya (repairing the world experience) that includes hands-on volunteer work as they learn to make a positive contribution to Israel and the world.
Many of today’s North American Jews can trace their family roots to the vast expanse in between Vitebsk, Belarus, and Khabarovsk, Russia. Today, there are more than 40 Reform Jewish communities in this region, and that number is growing.
by Curtis Ramsey-Lucas Twenty-five years ago, on July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA and the subsequent ADA Amendments Act, signed in 2008 by President George W. Bush, expanded opportunities for Americans with disabilities by reducing barriers and changing perceptions. As a result, our society is more open and accessible to people with disabilities today than it was just a generation ago.
Sports, games, art and science projects. Swimming, hiking, climbing. Laughing, learning, sharing. It’s these activities, and more, that transform summer camp into one of the strongest links in the Reform Movement’s chain of connections. In fact, summertime for the URJ is like one huge game of connect-the-dots. Connecting current campers with alumni. Connecting clergy with worshippers.
by Sharon Mann Congregations are always thinking of new ways to attract and interest younger members. While this is, of course, essential, it is perhaps just as important for congregations to consider what they are doing to engage and enrich older members who want to remain connected as they deal with circumstances that arise later in life. At my congregation, Kehillat Emet VeShalom (the only synagogue in Nahariya, Israel, affiliated with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism), we’ve been dealing with a unique version of this scenario. Looking at our community, we asked ourselves: What happens to olim (immigrants) who make aliyah (move to Israel) at an advanced age? Many of these olim live on low, fixed incomes and have difficulty learning Hebrew well. Our congregation saw that these challenges limited new residents’ ability to take part in Israeli society and that, despite the passage of time, they continued to struggle with difficulties adjusting to life in Israel. Between 2002 and 2003, a large wave of older immigrants from Argentina settled in Nahariya. Our congregation stepped up to the challenge of working with these olim, as well as with veteran immigrants, to provide them with support and the opportunity to participate in Jewish social and educational programs that they otherwise could not afford or understand. We've also embraced new and veteran English-speaking immigrants from across the religious spectrum.