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June 2015


The Supreme Court term that just came to an end was extremely significant, and not just because of the historic healthcare and marriage equality rulings. Throughout the term, we saw a number of important criminal justice cases argued and decided, and though some of them did not go the way we would have hoped, important questions were raised about the way that “justice” is carried out in our criminal justice system.

By Sophie Ranen

As an intern at The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, I have had the opportunity to learn about a pressing racial justice issue: solitary confinement.

Currently, the United States holds at least 80,000 prisoners in isolation, more than any other country in the world. Prisoners in solitary confinement are held alone, or with another person, in a small cell for 22-24 hours a day and deprived of human contact, natural sunlight, and productive activities for months, years, or even decades. Isolation is used both as punishment for behavior in prison as well as gang management. For the former, prisoners receive a sentence for a specified time-period while prisoners with assumed gang affiliation often receive indefinite sentences. Additionally, solitary confinement is often used as punishment for non-violent infractions of prison discipline such as talking back, having too many postage stamps, wearing the wrong sweatshirt, or cheering too loudly for the Patriots during the Super Bowl.

This week, we continue our celebration of marriage equality in the United States with special messages from WRJ and Reform Movement leaders and community members. Today we hear from WRJ Immediate Past President Lynn Magid Lazar.

Love conquers all! Well, maybe not all—but certainly last week’s Supreme Court decision marks a momentous day for our country and a moment in time when we can honestly say that our country upheld the values of love and equal rights and responsibilities for all our citizens. Love conquers all! At least for right now; for myself and for so many other parents, grandparents, siblings, relatives, and friends, (as the hashtags say) love wins! Last week, the majority opinion of our Supreme Court asserted that in this country, freedoms expand. In this country, all our citizens are entitled to participate in the sacred relationships of marriage.

Lynn Magid Lazar

Summer is when we most often have a moment to examine the beauty of our natural surroundings. But remember when summers weren’t as hot? For many of us, summer is when we bemoan the extreme heat associated with rising global temperatures.

Gift of Life is one of North America’s donor bone marrow and blood stem cell registries, and a world leader helping children and adults find the matches they need when they need them. As an associate registry of the National Marrow Donor Program, Gift of Life is accredited by the World Marrow Donor Association.

by Rabbi Denise L. Eger

This week, we continue our celebration of marriage equality in the United States with special messages from WRJ and Reform Movement leaders and community members. Today we are proud to share remarks from CCAR President Rabbi Denise L. Eger, which she wrote on Friday, January 26, the day of the decision. 

We shout mazel tov for marriage equality!

The dream has come true, but there is work to do! The United States has taken one more step toward fulfilling the dream of a country where people can live their own lives without fear; but as we celebrate the SCOTUS decision that gives every person the right to marry their beloved, we know the right to live in peace is still a far-off dream for too many people.

On Thursday, June 25, I traveled to Roanoke, Virginia with Legislative Assistant Claire Shimberg and other voting rights advocates from the DC metropolitan area. There, we joined with hundreds of concerned Americans to mark the 2 year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and left voters vulnerable to discrimination. Together, we rallied for voting rights and urged Congress, especially House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, to hold a hearing and restore voting rights for all.

Earlier this month, the UN held its Eighth Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in April 2006, is based on the ideals of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and is intended to empower persons with disabilities to be independent and productive. CRPD represents an international effort to bring the world closer to achieving the goals of equality, opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.

Today, the Supreme Court issued an historic 5-4 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in favor of marriage equality. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion strongly advocated for expanding freedom as the need arises.

The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.

51 years ago, on June 21, 1964, civil rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner were abducted in Neshoba County, Mississippi and murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner had been in Mississippi preparing and registering African Americans to vote as part of Freedom Summer. The three men were executed on the side of a dark road in Mississippi, and it took 44 days for their bodies to be found. Their deaths fueled support of the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, an Act that we are trying to strengthen and support again today.