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May 2015


The record-breaking floods over the past week in Houston sadly remind us all of the fragility of our homes and refuges in the face of extreme weather. Many homes were destroyed in the severe flooding in Houston, along with two synagogues. Help support the people affected by the floods in Houston through the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston here. The floods also remind of the many individuals whose were not lost, but who were experiencing homelessness before and now will have to face even greater challenges to be safe and secure in a home of their own. While we reach out to and try to support those in Houston, we must also take action to ensure accessible, affordable housing for all people through legislative advocacy.

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps’ of Engineers released a final Waters of the U.S. rule clarifying the purview of regulations for the Clean Water Act. While this may sound a little wonky, the Clean Water Act is an incredibly important foundation for environmental protection in the United States. The Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, was intended to restore the environmental integrity of American waters, which were being polluted by chemical, biological, and physical contamination.

Each summer, the RAC hosts a series of Intern events for Jewish college students in Washington. Join us! We look forward to meeting you.

We’re closing in on just one month from the deadline for a final deal on Iran’s nuclear program, and there’s still much that needs to be figured out before all the parties can reach an agreement. Secretary of State John Kerry will be flying over to Geneva, Switzerland on Saturday to continue talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Amirhossein Zamani-Nia stated that 30% of the work of writing out the technical details of the agreement are yet to be completed, and while there’s a possibility that the negotiations could stretch beyond the end of June, US officials are focusing on finishing by the June 30 deadline.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of mental illnesses and the importance of mental wellness for all.  In our own country, an estimated 18.6 percent or 43.7 million Americans live with mental illnesses, and 4.1% or 9.6 million U.S. adults have a serious mental illness. Whether or not we have personally experienced a mental illness, no family or community is immune.

On Wednesday, Nebraska became the nineteenth state to abolish the death penalty. The vote made Nebraska the first state in two years to formally abolish capital punishment. The decision comes at a time when support for the death penalty is decreasing and the number of executions is declining. In fact, polls released last month by Pew Research Center and CBS News show that public support for the death penalty has declined to almost historic lows. Only 56% of Americans reported supporting the death penalty—the lowest level of support ever recorded by the CBS News poll and near the lowest level reported by Pew in the last 40 years. And, the level of support for capital punishment has been falling consistently for two decades.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S. 178), a bill to enhance protections and increase the infrastructure around restitution for victims of human trafficking. The vote was nearly unanimous, with all but three present Representatives voting in favor of the bill, which was identical to the version the Senate passed a few weeks prior. The bill moves now to the President, who is expected to sign it into law.

Last Friday, a small group of RAC staff members attended President Obama's remarks at Adas Israel for Jewish American Heritage Month. We were honored to be in attendance, and it was wonderful to hear the President's reflections on the contributions Jewish Americans have made to the United States, as well as his own personal connections to the Jewish community.

NFTY and the RAC are teaming up next Tuesday, June 2 to take part in “Wear Orange,” a new national campaign to honor the 31,000 American lives lost each year to gun violence on the inaugural National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Wear Orange is call for action to reduce gun violence in the United States, and we’d love for your congregation to join us in this important campaign!

In a much-anticipated court ruling on Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled not to lift the injunction from a lower court on President Obama’s signature executive action on immigration. This ruling means that, until the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the case, the Obama administration cannot move forward with plans to implement reforms to the Department of Homeland Security, such as the new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program that is expected to provide relief from deportation for over four million undocumented people.