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November 2014

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In search of a unique gift for the social justice junkie in your life? Look no further than our Social Justice Hanukkah Gift Guide, with eight suggestions full of tzedek – one for each night!

Give the Gift of Life
Help your loved ones give the most meaningful gift of all – the Gift of Life – by having them join the National Bone Marrow Registry. Thousands of adults and children need blood transfusions or life-saving bone marrow transplants each year, and depend on matches from donors like you. You can run a drive in your community, donate the cost of processing a swab kit to Gift of Life, or order kits to get tested yourself!

Give Nothing but Nets
This Hanukkah, help eliminate malaria death in sub-Saharan Africa by joining the Union for Reform Judaism’s Nothing But Nets campaign. With a $10 donation you can provide a life-saving bed net to families who have fled conflict and are living in refugee camps. Make a donation and help save lives today.

Give Support to Ebola Victims & Families
Light a candle and give a gift to support those facing and responding to the deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. The Reform Movement has partnered with American Jewish World Service to raise funds to assist with contact tracing, burial, and community outreach throughout the countries most hard hit by this terrible virus. Give the gift of relief today.

Monday night, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced that a grand jury had decided there was not enough probable cause to indict police Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who was fatally shot on August 9, 2014. In response to the decision, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Steve Fox, Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, issued the following the statement:

Jewish tradition emphasizes the importance of access to health care. Maimonides lists health care among the ten most important communal services that has to be offered by a city to its residents. (Mishneh Torah, SeferHamadda IV:23). It is therefore important that we stay up to date on the latest developments in the health care landscape and take action to advocate for increased access to affordable health care when possible. This past month alone has been full of important health care developments:

This year, in advance of Thanksgiving, we’ve written about using the national holiday as an opportunity to engage in interfaith dialogue and a chance to consider those among us who have less. What we have not yet talked about this year is the tragic underside to a holiday that in most of our memories is filled with family, food and football. After all, as adults we know that Thanksgiving is more than the pilgrims shaking hands with Native Americans and sharing cornucopias of squash and apples; this a holiday on which we have a choice to raise up the voices of the oppressed, the colonized and the oft-forgotten among us. I’m talking about Native Americans.

This midterm election, only 36.4 percent of the voting eligible population cast ballots. The disappointing turnout is not surprising- midterm election turnout has been declining and is always lower than presidential elections. But, this year is particularly troubling because of the disenfranchisement that occurred across the country.

When Representative Alma Adams (D-NC-12) was sworn in earlier this month, we hit a milestone for women in politics: 100 women—the most in history—currently serve in Congress. There’s been a lot of conversation about how, despite the progress this figure symbolizes, 100 women out of 535 Senators and Representatives is not enough. Noticeably absent from this conversation, however, is a discussion of how money in politics affects who runs for office.

When we talk about money in politics, we tend to focus on candidates’ campaign expenditures. But the outsized influence corporate donors and wealthy individuals have on political campaigns affects far more than a candidate’s campaign events or the ads we see on TV in the final push before Election Day. Campaign contributions affect who can run for office in the first place, with money serving as a substantial barrier for women and people of color seeking to start a campaign.

It’s mid-November and we have transitioned from pumpkin spice lattes to actual pumpkin pie; Thanksgiving is around the corner. Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday to consider as an American Jew in that is nationally celebrated and steeped in ritual, but not directly connected to any one religious tradition. The upcoming holiday presents an opportunity to reach out of our immediate Jewish community and engage with our friends and family of other faiths and of no faith.

The grand jury in the Ferguson case is expected to meet today in what could be its final session. If a decision is made, it will likely not be made public until at least Sunday because the prosecutors are expected to provide law enforcement 48 hours notice.  The FBI has warned that the decision will likely lead to violence by some individuals and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has already declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. As we approach this decision, it is important to reflect on how we can address the root problems that allowed the August 9 shooting and subsequent events to occur. The reports and articles below discuss what we can learn from Ferguson, how we can improve police and community relations and why it is important to prevent discrimination and promote diversity.

Washington, D.C., November 20, 2014 – In response to President Obama’s executive action providing new protections for nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

One out of three women worldwide will be physically, sexually, or otherwise abused during her lifetime. In some countries, it’s as many as seven in ten. Violence against women is a human rights violation that devastates lives, fractures communities and prevents women from fully contributing to the economic development of their countries.

Take a minute to think about the things we do every day: go to work, go to school, provide food for ourselves and for our families. We generally do not equate these tasks with putting ourselves in danger. But, that’s not the case everywhere. Often, the perpetrators of violence against women and girls commit that violence while women are on their way to work or to collect food and water, or while girls are on their way to school—that is, if they are allowed to go to school at all.