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March 2015

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By Ruthy Goldberg

A few weeks ago I attended L’Taken, the RAC’s social justice seminar in Washington DC, with a few of my peers from Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, Maryland. During the program, we learned about a range of different topics from hunger, to the environment, to reproductive rights. On Monday we all had the opportunity to go lobby on Capitol Hill. I had the chance to lobby in both Senator Mikulski and Senator Cardin’s offices with my thoughts on embryonic stem cell research; how this topic relates to me personally and how it relates to me as a Reform Jew.

I don’t remember the first time I skimmed my skull with a bobby pin and pushed a circle of knitted white cloth and strands of hair into its metal clasp. Wearing a kippah felt like a natural extension of the Jewish history I was learning and the Hebrew grammar and vocabulary that was quickly becoming the primary language through which I understood my surroundings. I was 15 years old, and I had chosen to study on Kibbutz Tzuba with Eisendrath International Exchange as a return to both my symbolic, spiritual home as diaspora Jew, and to my familial home, only miles away from the kibbutz where my father grew up and his parents and siblings still lived. I wanted to know, as I began to plan out my college career, if Israel would be my future home, if the army would be my intermediary step and if I would, perhaps, studying at Hebrew University  instead of an American university.

On March 27, legally married same-sex couples will be able to take unpaid time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Signed into law 22 years ago, FMLA allows eligible workers to take a maximum 12 weeks unpaid time off of work to care for a new child (including adopted and foster children), care for a sick child, act as a caregiver for a parent, address personal serious health concerns and care for wounded service members. The rule, published last month, revises the definition of spouse to include legally married same-sex couples, regardless of whether the state they live in recognizes their marriage or not. This is an important step forward for LGBT individuals.

When we think of pregnant women in the workforce, the first thing that comes to mind is often maternity leave. But, maternity leave is just one piece of the complex puzzle of policies necessary to support working mothers and working families. Another critical piece of that puzzle are pregnancy accommodations—necessary to ensure that pregnant workers can keep working to support themselves and their families throughout the duration of their pregnancy.

Over the course of six L’Taken seminars this winter, I had the opportunity to work with inspiring groups of teen advocates dedicated to ending violence against

Last week, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a tax credit proposal designed to help working families by relieving some of their federal tax responsibilities. Senators Durbin and Brown introduced the Working Families Tax Relief Act. This would extend and expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as well as the Child Tax Credit (CTC), making the 2009 expansions of the tax credits permanent. Without extending the EITC and CTC to 2017, 50 million Americans could lose part or all of their EITC or CTC refunds.

It is difficult to find a person within the faith community who is not aware that Pope Francis is writing an encyclical letter (a high level of papal teaching) on the environment. Given his popularity, his choosing the name of Francis – the patron saint of those who promote ecology – and the fact that there has never been such a document in the history of the Catholic Church, it is not surprising that the anticipation is building.

But what might he say? Pope Francis has offered some ideas, and he will undoubtedly build on what has been said before, particularly on statements made by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II.

By Marla Feldman

A version of this post originally appeared on WRJ Blog.

March 7, 2015 marks the commemoration of Bloody Sunday – that day in Selma, AL 50 years ago that is seared into our visual memory, even for those who were not there or not even alive at that time. Hundreds of civil rights activists standing toe to toe with hostile state troopers wielding billy clubs and an angry mob ready to attack. Like Moses standing before Pharoah, they choked down their fears and dared to ‘speak truth to power.’

Many heroes joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Edmund Pettus Bridge that day and throughout the struggle for civil rights. Our nation’s soul owes them a debt of gratitude: the freedom riders who risked their lives in the cause of justice; the students who faced gauntlets of hatred for the right to go to school; the men and women who sat together at lunch counters; the lawyers who defended them and challenged unjust laws; the clergy who spoke truth from the pulpits of churches and synagogues despite bomb threats and arson; and the politicians who, finally, heard their pleas and changed their hearts.

After much anticipation, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all public schools in the five boroughs will now be closed for two Muslim holidays: Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the Festival of the Sacrifice, and Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan at the end of the summer (this closing will happen during summer school).

Although the City Council had approved a resolution to add these holidays to the school calendars in 2009, Mayor de Blasio (who has been in office a little over a year) has finally implemented this change.

By Tracie Feinman

I’ll never forget the phone call. I was driving in the car with my daughter; we were on our way home from her annual preschool field trip to the apple orchard. On the other end of the line was a woman from Gift of Life, who told me in a very kind voice that I was a potential match for a patient in need of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. What started as a conversation, led to confirmatory blood work and another phone call, which verified that I was indeed “the match.”