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April 2015

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This week, the Raise the Wage Act was introduced in Congress to raise the minimum wage to $12.00 an hour by the year 2020. On the occasion of the bill’s introduction, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to deliver the following words before the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism at the RAC's Consultation on Conscience:

Today, at the opening day of the Consultation on Conscience, we opened our programming with a short plenary followed by two rich and engaging workshop blocks. Participants had the opportunity to learn about the importance of national paid sick days legislation from Vicki Shabo of the National Partnership for Women and Families; to learn about the moral call to end climate change from Rabbi Larry Troster of GreenFaith; to delve into how create inclusive communities for people with disabilities; to hear from Rabbi Joel Mosbacher on his work to prevent the greater scourge of gun violence prevention; just to name a few of the wonderful workshops!

By Isabella Merritt

As I sat in Congressmen Jim McDermott's office waiting to meet him, I was extremely nervous. I was about to have a meeting with someone who had served my district for 26 years to ask if he would speak to students at American University about the importance of fighting malaria. This was a big deal. Before I moved to Washington D.C. I had no idea I would ever set-up a meeting with a member of Congress. This meeting would have never happened if it wasn't for my fellowship with the United Nations Foundation Nothing But Nets campaign and the Religious Action Center. Over the past year and a half, my fellowship with these two organizations has evolved from an extracurricular activity to a true passion. 

Next Tuesday, April 28, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on four combined cases relating to marriage equality. The joint suit is known by one of the cases, Obergefell v. Hodges, and could establish the freedom to marry in all fifty states. As oral arguments approach, the RAC has joined other faith organizations in co-sponsoring a National Weekend of Prayer for marriage equality on April 24-26, 2015.

We are all impacted by climate change and environmental injustice. Over half of us live in counties in violation of air pollution standards, storms like Katrina, Irene, and Sandy don’t discriminate in the devastation they unleash, and communities across the coastlines of this country are facing imminent displacement due to sea level rise, which is overtaking land and resulting in increased risk of storm surge.

by Rabbi Rebekah Stern

I lay in bed one night late last summer, scrolling, as I often do, through my Facebook newsfeed on my phone. As a congregational rabbi and a mother of two young children—a now almost five-year old girl and two-year old boy—these last moments before I fall asleep are the only ones I seem to have to catch up on the lives of my more distant friends.

These were the first painful weeks after Michael Brown’s death. The weeks when we were reminded that there is sometimes a shocking discrepancy between the way that my white family experiences interaction with law enforcement and the way that black families often do.

Starting on Sunday, April 26, Religious Action Center staff will be welcoming over 400 rabbis, cantors, and lay leaders to Washington D.C. to participate in our Consultation on Conscience. Over the course of the weekend, participants will have the chance to hear from amazing speakers, attend workshops and lobby their elected representatives on Capitol Hill.

At the RAC’s Consultation on Conscience April 26-28, 2015, we are thrilled to have Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, Missouri and Aaron Jenkins of Operation Understanding DC lead a workshop on how congregations can engage in the important civil rights work of our time. Rabbi Talve will speak about her activism in the St. Louis and Ferguson area in the time since Michael Brown’s death, and the role of congregations and faith leaders in leading this work. Mr. Jenkins will talk about his work as Executive Director of Operation Understanding DC and the importance of dialogue, especially between the black and Jewish communities.

When the Senate failed to pass bipartisan legislation that would have expanded background checks to almost all gun sales in April 2013, many in the gun violence prevention community were disappointed that this important reform was not achieved. This loss was especially more painful as the call for this legislation came in the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This legislative loss did not change the need for strong laws that prevent gun violence, and the strategy to fight for safer communities was adapted for new arenas.