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August 2015

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On September 25, Pope Francis will speak to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City as the members determine the new Sustainable Development Goals. These goals will guide global leaders in finding a way forward for international development. The Sustainable Development Goals are being finalized this September ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change happening in Paris this December. Both UN gatherings are happening in the wake of global temperature rise, sea level rise, increased droughts and flooding, all due to climate change.

Do you remember holding a Torah scroll? Its sudden weight in your arms and soul, the joy of connecting through the generations to Sinai in an instant. When was that moment?

Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker

Our Jewish tradition is full of journeys, from the very beginning of our sacred texts. Adam and Eve’s exile from the Garden of Eden; Noah’s Ark and his aquatic sojourn – while these are not explicit commandments from God, they are journeys for these Biblical figures. Later, in parashat Lech Lecha (literally, “go” or “leave”), God commands Abraham “go from your land … to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 17:27). Later on, we read of Moses’ journey from Egypt to Midian, back to Egypt, and then his leadership of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt and the subsequent wandering in the desert for forty years before entering the Promised Land. Ruth leaves Moab with Naomi to a new land, Israel, where she is a stranger, and finds a new life. Over the course of millennia, Jewish individuals and the Jewish people have journeyed, whether by choice, whether by command from God, whether by necessity due to forced exile, anti-Semitism or more modern crises, such as the pogroms.

Journeys, both literal and figurative, are familiar to us as Jews. Journeys are not easy, and the miles walked and the distances covered illustrate for us the challenges and struggles of the time.

by Lisa Rosenberg Schiff

Title: Noah’s Swim-a-Thon
Author: Ann D. Koffsky
Illustrator: Ann D. Koffsky
Publisher: URJ Press
Intended for Ages: 5-6 years
Jewish Customs: tzedakah (justice/charity); k'hilah k'doshah (holy community; hidur mitzvot (completing good deeds)
Additional Topics Mentioned: n'divut (generosity); malacha (industrious/hard-working); tikkun olam (repairing the world)

Synopsis

Noah loves everything about summer camp – except swimming. Yet, when he finds out about a camp swim-a-thon that will give other children a chance to attend the camp he loves, Noah leaps at the chance to jump in the water and do his part to help. By participating in his camp's tzedakah project, Noah overcomes his anxiety about the pool and instead focuses on the positive feelings that come with fulfilling a mitzvah! 

 

Rabbi Beth Kalisch

Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, the last time a nuclear weapon was used as a war tactic against people, almost entirely civilians. The blast left 60,000-80,000 dead within a few days, with tens of thousands injured suffering crippling injuries from radiation and tens of thousands more hurt from radiation poisoning. The anniversary of the bombings provide an opportunity to reflect on the destruction the nuclear weapons caused in the immediate aftermath and over the years, from heart-wrenching photos of survivors in the first days, weeks and months after the bombings, to the scars that will not ever truly fade away – both in Japan and throughout the global community.

Part of our job as legislative assistants, in addition to staying on top of policy and doing direct lobby visits, is to help Reform Jews – from high school students with us for the L’Taken Social Justice Seminars to rabbis and congregational lay leaders attending Consultation on Conscience – speak to the offices of their elected officials.

On July 23, 2015, I had the opportunity to join the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Deputy Director, Rachel Laser, at the Capitol Building for a press conference for the introduction of the Equality Act.

The Equality Act (H.R. 3185/S. 1858) would amend existing civil rights legislation in order to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, federal funding, education, credit, and jury selection based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity and prohibit sex discrimination in public accommodations and federal funding. The bill and its introduction were historic in many ways, especially since the LGBT community has focused on just federal employment non-discrimination protections for the past two decades.

The legislative assistant offices at the RAC have a strange feel to them today—all of the zany pictures and decorations adorning our desks have been removed, the usual desktop clutter has vanished and there is a strong scent of cleaning solution flowing through the air. After 50 weeks at the RAC, it’s our last day, and an opportunity for us to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve witnessed during our time here.

Four hundred years ago, the mystics of Tzfat began walking out into the fields to greet Shabbat (many of us reenact this by standing for the last verse of L'cha Dodi).

Rabbi Mark Miller