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October 2014

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There are 35,000 walruses stranded right now on the beaches of northwest Alaska. Walruses, which rely on sea ice to rest periodically, are having a harder and harder time finding it in the Bering Sea due to ice sheets melting from rising global temperatures. Scientists, including those at the Walrus Research Center in Anchorage Alaska, have serious concerns over whether walruses will be able to adapt to shrinking sea ice levels. They may very well become one of the wide array of species that we can expect to go extinct as climate disruption ravages our planet.

This week, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Religious Action Center sent a check for $5,000 to our partners at Nothing But Nets to fund anti-malarial initiatives in Liberia, the country at the heart of the Ebola epidemic. But why fight malaria when Ebola is killing so many?

Election Day is on Tuesday November 4 – which is coming up very soon, meaning it’s time to make sure that you are registered to vote!

Our votes will determine who will be representing us on Capitol Hill, for 36 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election.

When you go to the polls this year, you will not only have the opportunity to weigh in on federal elections, but also a myriad of critical state races that are happening as well.  36 states will be choosing a new governor this November and there are 12514 state legislative contests in 47 states. Hundreds of cities and towns throughout the country will also be choosing new mayors and council members. 40 states will also be voting on 139 ballot measures, such as Massachusetts’ Ballot Question 4 on Paid Sick Days.

By Rabbi Peter Berg

The New Year has given us a new chance to promote justice throughout the world, and a new chance to help in the holy work being done by Rabbis Organizing Rabbis (ROR), who have been hard at work to save a father from deportation. This new year, start off 5775 justly by taking 10 minutes to show that Reform rabbis stand up for justice.

This week marks the beginning of LGBT History month, dedicated to celebrating the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and the LGBT Equal Rights Movement. Although the LGBT Equality Movement’s most significant victories have occurred in the past decade and a half (sodomy laws which criminalized same-sex sexual conduct were only declared unconstitutional in 2003!), the Reform Movement has a long and rich history of fighting for LGBT Equality. In fact, our Movement was advocating for LGBT equality long before it became a mainstream equality movement.

If you’ve turned on the television or even glanced at a newspaper over the past several weeks, you’ve likely seen coverage of Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens running back who punched his then-fiancée Janay in an elevator. The renewed conversation about Rice’s actions and about the NFL’s reaction is a disheartening, if timely introduction to Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which we observe in October to boost anti-violence efforts and to draw critical attention to a problem far too often swept under the rug.

With greater public attention being paid to incidences of sexual violence and violence against women – in the NFL and on college campuses are two examples that come to mind first – what can we learn about how our culture at large understands domestic violence? It echoes harmful myths that, until not so long ago, relegated domestic violence to the private sphere: domestic violence was a personal, private matter between spouses rather than an issue of national concern for gender equality and fundamental respect for all people. Beginning the 1980s, advocates against domestic violence were able to bring the issue to national attention for the first time, initiating cultural shift that eventually brought about passage of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which for the first time made domestic and sexual violence a crime under federal law.

Like many self-styled foreign policy wonks, I’ve found myself incredibly disturbed by the extremist group known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. There’s no shortage of news these days on ISIS, from what we should call them to what life is like under ISIS control to why the U.S. should attack them to why the U.S. shouldn’t attack them to wondering whether all of this is legal.

Our tradition teaches us that on Rosh Hashanah, each person is judged based on their actions of the past year and on Yom Kippur, after an opportunity to reflect and repent, that judgment is sealed for the next year. Therefore, during the High Holiday season, Jews reflect on the year that has passed, confess our sins, make amends with each other and seek forgiveness from God. Our Yom Kippur service will focus on the themes of our personal repentance, confessions and sins. Yet this Yom Kippur, while we pray, fast and seek to be inscribed in the book of life, I encourage you to also reflect on our criminal justice system and the ways in which we allow those convicted of crimes to reflect, repent, and seek forgiveness.