Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
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In Response to New Hunger and Homelessness Data: Reform Jewish Movement Calls on President Bush and Congress to Make Fighting Poverty a Priority

Feldman: Congress and the Administration cannot afford to ignore the problems of hunger and homelessness that plague the residents of our cities and our entire nation and must commit the resources necessary to assist those in dire need.

New York, December 19, 2003 - In response to Thursday's release of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' annual survey of hunger and homelessness in America's cities, Rabbi Marla Feldman, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

The report released Thursday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors highlighting the continuing problems of hunger and homelessness in America's cities is a stark reminder of the challenges faced by America's poor. The growing numbers of men, women and children facing hunger and homelessness on a daily basis reinforces the overwhelming need for Congress and the Administration to solve these systemic problems.

According to the report, in the last year, requests for emergency food assistance increased by an average of 17 percent and requests for emergency shelter assistance increased by an average of 13 percent in the 25 cities surveyed. Food insecurity and lack of shelter hit families with children particularly hard, with requests for food assistance by families with children increasing by 18 percent over the last year. Yet we know that 15 percent of requests for emergency food assistance for families went unmet. Congress and the Administration cannot afford to ignore the problems of hunger and homelessness that plague the residents of our cities and our entire nation and must commit the resources necessary to assist those in dire need.

Addressing hunger and homelessness requires us to address its root causes: unemployment, low-paying jobs and high housing costs. We must raise the current low minimum wage to a level that reflects the reality of our economy. We must create more affordable housing. We must improve and expand child nutrition programs so that no eligible child in America will be hungry. We must reauthorize the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, allowing Americans to move out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. And we must ensure that the Child Care and Development Block Grant provides funds to all the families currently receiving childcare subsidies. Only a comprehensive plan that addresses all of these issues will eliminate hunger and homelessness in America.

Jewish tradition teaches us to "speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy" (Proverbs 31:19). God commands us to "share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless into your house" (Isaiah 58:7). Recognizing that one in 10 American families live in poverty, the Union for Reform Judaism recently embarked on a major initiative to engage Reform Jews throughout North America in efforts to ameliorate poverty. It is our hope that Congress and the Administration will also become engaged in this issue, ending these problems and reversing these trends so that in future years, the release of these annual statistics will be cause for celebration, rather than shame.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis .

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