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September 2014

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One of the best parts about my job as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant is constantly meeting people who are passionate advocates for the causes they believe in. Not only do these interactions reinvigorate my optimism for success on the issues I work on, but they also inspire me to learn and engage in new issues too. I had one such experience over the last two days. I showed up to the Nothing But Nets (NBN) Champion Summit on Sunday morning as part of the RAC team working with our Nothing But Nets partnership, seeing my participation in the conference as one of the aspects and responsibilities of  our work on this important issue. But Monday afternoon, I left the Hill as an NBN Champion and advocate personally engaged and invested in the fight against malaria.

In this season of renewal, Jews reflect on the year past and look forward to a 5775, a year that brings new opportunity. Since the launch of Double Booked this past January, we have identified some of the challenges that working families face today and discussed a wide variety of cultural, social, and policy solutions. The Jewish new year seems a fitting time to reveal the next phase of our Double Booked initiative, which will focus on working with our interfaith partners to lift up good internal employment policies as well as to engage our denominations and houses of worship in federal, state, and local initiatives to pass much-needed policies to support the modern American family.

One such policy is ensuring paid sick days. We are proud to report that the Union for Reform Judaism (which the RAC is part of) offers its employees a generous paid sick days policy. The Union demonstrated its strong support again for these policies in a new resolution that was passed at our 2013 Biennial.

In the battle over the efficacy of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, numbers are key for measuring the successes and failures of health care reform. From the number of Americans with insurance to the to the average cost of health care a year, these numbers will be used by both supporters and opponents of recent health care reforms to both praise and criticize the impact of Obamacare.  This month the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released important statistics that both paint a picture of health care enrollment in the United States and serve as a baseline for judging the impact of the Affordable Care Act in the years to come.  While the increase in insurance coverage is a positive sign, the racial disparities illustrated by these statistics offer an important reason as to why we must fight to expand coverage and accessibility for all.

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish year, we fast as an opportunity to reflect on the year past and turn to the future. The Torah instructs the Jewish people that "the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: You shall practice self-denial."(Leviticus 23:27). The fast begins with the Kol Nidre evening service through the shofar’s final Tekiah Gedolah blast at the close of the Yom Kippur afternoon service. This is one way by which Jews around the world look inward and focus on t’shuvah (repentance) and t’fillah (prayer).

Yet, there are many in this country who do not have the luxury of being able to choose when they will or will not choose to eat. 46.2 million Americans live in poverty and 47 million Americans, or 15% of the population, receive SNAP benefits.According to 2013 data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 49 million Americans lived in a household that faced difficulty affording enough food in 2013. 15.8 million children struggled with food insecurity issues in the past year. Additionally, 50% of U.S children will receive SNAP benefits at some point before they reach the age of 20. Hunger is still taking place on a massive scale, both in the United States and around the world.

As we begin the new Jewish year, these Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) are a time for us to reflect on the year that was and renew our commitments to tzedakah (justice) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). We also mark these days by heading to our synagogues to pray as a community, which is why it was even more disheartening to hear about a possible hate crime at a synagogue in Baltimore over Rosh Hashanah. According to reports, a man yelled out in front of a synagogue and shot a BB gun in the vicinity of the building.

Happy New Year and welcome to the Jewish month of Tishrei! The Jewish new year is a time for rededication and reflection, looking back on what we’ve done right in the past year and what we would like to do better in the year ahead.

On Sunday, September 28 we commemorated the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, encouraging individuals, organizations and governments to take steps to ensure women’s health care access around the world.

Despite seemingly constant attacks on women’s reproductive rights in the United States, the alarming reality is that our laws allow safe and legal access compared to those of other countries around the world. In 138 countries, restrictions on abortion extend beyond the methods by which a woman may fund her procedure, with governments regulating the reasons for which a woman is or is not allowed to terminate her pregnancy. In its annual survey of abortion restrictions across the globe, the Center for Reproductive Rights categorizes these restrictions in three ways:

Transformation. New members. Cost savings. Relevancy. Spiritual growth. Culture shift.

Last month, the six of us began our new year as Eisendrath Legislative Assistants, complete with apples and honey, a RAC tradition to mark our office “Rosh Hashanah.” After two weeks of orientation and several weeks of familiarizing ourselves with our new portfolios, we are looking forward to the Jewish New Year and excited for the opportunities it will bring: