RAC

RAC

Every year I look forward to Passover, when we gather with family and friends, share a festive meal, and retell the story of our exodus from Egypt – with all the lessons applied to today's urgent moral dilemmas and to the struggles for freedom in America and across the globe.

At every seder, I am touched by the creativity of connecting symbols, old and new, on the seder plate to modern challenges – the bitter herbs for the victims of human trafficking, the symbols of the spring harvest reminding us of our responsibility to protect God's creation for generations yet to come, and newer symbols – an orange for women's rights, a tomato for farm workers' rights, etc. And this year, I know, as we tell the story of our own journey to freedom, we will remember those still facing injustice and inequality – immigrants to our nation, the LGBT community, the differently abled still facing too many barriers at too many turns. And in these connections, we should take tremendous pride in knowing how our story of liberation continues to inspire all those who dream that one day soon, freedom and equality can be theirs.

Let me also suggest a way at this time of year, you can help strengthen the social justice program of your synagogue: By ensuring that a congregational leader – or better yet, a delegation – attend the RAC's major social justice happening of the year, a Social Action Skills Training & Advocacy Day, May 18-20 in Washington, D.C.

The heads of Jewish and Christian organizations and denominations met in an unprecedented summit in New York City today to discuss strategies to strengthen and maintain relationships even in the face of significant disagreements. The gathering to discuss relationships and how we treat each other was the first to bring together these groups since a letter was sent on October 5, 2012 by Christian groups calling on Congress to investigate Israel's use of U.S. military aid.

At today's meeting, participants made a commitment to developing an effective and ongoing national dialogue of Christian and Jewish leaders:

In response to several anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine, the site of ongoing social upheaval, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement:

The events in Ukraine are deeply concerning for all who value human rights. We pray that the unrest will be resolved in a peaceful and democratic manner and without further loss of life. At the same time, we are also greatly troubled by several recent incidents of anti-Semitism that have shaken the Ukrainian Jewish community. The vandalism including swastikas and graffiti reading 'Death to the Jews' on the synagogue in Simferopol in the Crimea region this past Friday is unacceptable and serves as a bitter reminder that anti-Semitism continues to plague too many Jewish communities. 

The powerful roll out of the newest implementation steps of the Campaign for Youth Engagement at the recent URJ Biennial in San Diego has generated excellent feedback and momentum. Our Reform movement-wide approach is called Inspired Engagement, a transformative teen and young adult network, which integrates diverse program offerings into one seamless year-round matrix in order to increase access to, and promote lifelong participation in, the joys of Jewish living.

Here are some of the exciting specifics...

I spent yesterday on Capitol Hill for Jewish Disability Advocacy Day, which is an opportunity to learn about legislative issues of importance to individuals with disabilities and their families and to lobby members of Congress.  People came from all over the country and the day was an inspiring day of learning and advocating as a Jewish community.  The morning started with welcoming remarks from David Feinman, Senior Legislative Associate at the Jewish Federations of North America and co-chair of the Jewish Disability Network.  Following Dave, Rabbi Lynne Landsberg gave a beautiful d’var about the importance of both work and rest in the Jewish tradition.  Rabbi Landsberg explained that “resting” is different than “doing nothing” and that we need to fulfill our obligation to make sure that people with disabilities are able to participate in the workforce and in all aspects of society. 

This past weekend the Religious Action Center and Nothing But Nets welcomed our Malaria Fellows to Washington, D.C., for a two-day retreat. Our only in-person gathering of the program, the retreat provided the Fellows with a chance to get to know one another and our organizations, which they’ll be representing in front of tens of thousands of college students this semester. Over the course of our two days together, the Fellows not only watched the Super Bowl, but also learned about the how the Reform Movement and Nothing But Nets have partnered to end malaria for nearly a decade. Together, we set goals designed to engage their entire campus communities and learned about the unique roles education, action and advocacy play in our pursuit of a more just world.

By Olivia Kessler

Did you know malaria is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito carrying the Plasmodium parasite and kills 600,000 people every year? Did you know malaria exists in 109 countries around the world, making half of the world's population susceptible to the disease? Did you know that every 60 seconds a child dies from malaria? Neither did I.

Then I learned that since 2007, the Union for Reform Judaism has partnered with Nothing But Nets, a United Nations campaign to raise awareness and funding to prevent malaria. To date, the URJ’s campaign has raised more than $750,000 and sent more than 75,000 insecticide treated bed-nets to those at risk in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Amazed by the success of this campaign, Jackson Dooling, NFTY Southwest’s Social Action Vice President, and I were determined to mobilize NFTYites to join us in the fight against malaria.

In response to the Israeli government's fulfillment of its court-ordered obligation to pay the salaries of four non-Orthodox communal rabbis, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Tuesday's announcement that four non-Orthodox communal rabbis have received state-paid salaries represents a major step forward for religious pluralism in Israel.  Although we continue to believe that the goal of full and equal recognition of non-Orthodox Jewry and their rabbis must be fulfilled as soon as possible, we welcome the long-overdue state compensation for Rabbis Miri Gold of the Gezer Regional Council, Stacey Blank of the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council, Gadi Raviv of the Misgav Regional Council, and Benji Gruber of Hevel Eliot Regional Council.  While the state continues to fund religious services, including rabbis' salaries, this funding must be provided on an equal basis for all denominations.