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December 2014

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In the midterm elections last month, when we saw successful votes to increase the minimum wage in four states (Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Nebraska).

It is exciting that all of these measures were approved and the Reform Movement applauded these efforts at the state level.

By Paul Kaufman

And God said, “Let Us make man in Our image…and let them have dominion…over all the earth….” With these words in Genesis 1:27-28, God assigns to humankind the responsibility for caring for the planet. Genesis 2:15 also emphasizes our responsibility to protect the integrity of the environment so that its diverse species, including humans, can thrive: “The human being was placed in the Garden of Eden to till it and to tend it.” Similarly, Jewish tradition teaches us that human dominion over nature does not include a license to abuse the environment.

Four years ago, on December 22, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, which, as the name suggests, repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), the federal legislation that barred lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) service members from serving openly in the military. Repeal of DADT was ultimately fully implemented on September 20, 2011. Yet, almost 4 years after the DADT Repeal Act was signed into law paving the way for LGB service members to serve openly, there is still a population of people who are barred from the military simply because of who they are: transgender individuals.

This week, we read my favorite portion in Genesis, Parashat Vayishlach (“he sent”). Among the other stories in Vayishlach, we read about the brothers Jacob and Esau’s first meeting since Jacob stole his brother’s birthright and fled in Parashat Toldot. Jacob sends messengers to Esau and discovers that Esau is coming, along with four hundred men, to meet him. Jacob is scared that Esau will come to kill him and prepares gifts to dull his anger. Yet when Esau sees Jacob, he runs to embrace him, and they are overcome with emotion (Genesis 32:3-33:12).

Jacob’s fear of his brother always stuck with me, as we see Jacob, who is often so creative and cunning, in a situation where he is helpless. Esau, always the stronger of the two, knows where Jacob is, and Esau has a much bigger contingent traveling with him. Jacob cannot prevent his brother from doing what he wants, so Jacob can only hope that Esau’s anger has subsided since his birthright was stolen.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Young v. United Parcel Service, a pregnancy discrimination case that has significant implications for working women across the country. Supporters of the plaintiff, Peggy Young, gathered before the Court to protest pregnancy discrimination, sharing stories to highlight that the discrimination Young faced is not unique but rather a widespread injustice for working women. Speakers shared stories of cashiers fired for requesting a stool to alleviate the fatigue of standing and of women who stocked shelves fired for carrying a water bottle to stay hydrated on duty. They shared stories of their own and stories from their mothers’ generation and before, wondering aloud “why we’re here,” 36 years after the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978—the law in question in Young—was created to require reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.

This week, talks have begun between global leaders and civil society in Lima, Peru on what an international commitment to mitigating the harmful effects of climate disruption and reducing our worldwide greenhouse gas emission footprint could look like. In the past month, President Obama has made several historical moves as a global leader on climate change.

According to a state audit, murder cases in Nevada in which prosecutors seek the death penalty can cost nearly twice as much as those that seek a lesser punishment. The Nevada Legislature just released a 105 page audit focusing on the cost of death penalty and non-death penalty murder cases in two counties between 2000-2012. The audit was conducted as part of the Legislature’s oversight responsibility for public programs in order to improve state government. The audit took 18 months to conduct and looked at the price of trials, appeals and jail time for 28 Nevada cases.

Dear Friends,

Today is #GratitudeWednesday.  Ok.  Maybe I just made that up.  But what else should I call the day that comes after #GivingTuesday? There is so much to be grateful for.

When our friends at the 92nd Street Y invited the RAC to partner with them on #GivingTuesday, we had little idea about what we were getting ourselves into. Nonetheless, we jumped in feet first.  And I am so glad that we did.

For all of us at the RAC, this #GivingTuesday was so much more than a simple fundraising effort.  It provided an opportunity to good and to encourage others to do the same.

Dear Jacob,

It was good seeing you in Washington on Tuesday. Thank you for your activism. We’ll work together,

Sherrod

I received this handwritten letter from my Senator, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, nearly six years ago. He wrote it after I travelled with my confirmation class to Washington, DC in order to participate in the RAC’s L’taken Social Justice Seminar. To this day, I keep that letter framed in my room to remind me of the pivotal experience I had that snowy weekend in winter 2009.

By Rabbi Jack Luxemburg

This morning, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Young v. United Parcel Service, a pregnancy discrimination case that has far reaching implications for working women. These remarks were delivered at a rally before the Supreme Court in support of plaintiff Peggy Young and pregnant workers like her.