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Today is Rosh Chodesh Adar (chodesh tov!) and Chinese New Year (xin nian kuai le!). We should never lose sight of our responsibilities to and our place in the global community, but when these celebratory days coincide, we are reminded even more of how important it is to find opportunities for dialogue and connection. Two RAC staffers reflect on Chinese-Jewish relations, and how meaningful this relationship is.

The 113th Congress started with high hopes of Democrats and Republicans coming together to reform our broken immigration system, with a comprehensive bill that stalled in the House. This new Congress is stuck over reforms that have already been made. This week promises to be pivotal in the fight over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration in Congress and the courts: both the 2012 action that created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the action in November 2014 that created Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA).

Buoyed by a new session, Congress has been busy taking up legislation on immigration reform. Yet unfortunately, that “reform” has just meant going back to the old ways of doing things, when no undocumented immigrants were protected from deportation and our border communities lived in fear of government officials.

On Tuesday night, the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Representatives will stand on the floor of the House chamber and announce to the assembled Members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, Cabinet members, an array of guests in the gallery (including the First Lady and Dr. Biden) and millions of the American people watching live, “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States!” This now-iconic declaration opens the State of the Union ceremony, as the President ascends the dais, hands copies of his speech to the Vice President and the Speaker of the House, and begins his address.

I was able to spend a couple hours today watching C-SPAN, which, I’ll admit, may not sound very exciting. Yet, I was able to witness a fascinating piece of political theatre that had me at times depressed, at times hopeful and often on the edge of my seat. The stage had been set in the last Congress, when during Congress’s budget bill, Republicans delayed looking at funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This delay is why the bill was known as the CRomnibus, because it funded DHS on previously agreed-to levels (the Continuing Resolution, or CR, part), and set new funding levels for the rest of the government.

In all of the excitement over President Obama’s executive action on immigration, we haven’t been hearing much about the plight of unaccompanied children coming to the U.S.-Mexico border, which experienced a notable uptick this summer. Yet, there have been a few new developments:

By Rabbi Esther Lederman

Courage. Tenacity. Faith. These are the traits of the Jewish people that we honor during Hanukkah. And they’re what I’ve seen this week too.Many Reform rabbis called Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva to urge them to stop Luis Lopez Acabal’s deportation. Over the last two days, I spent hours with Luis’s wife, Mayra Canales, and the pastor who is providing him sanctuary in his church, Rev. Eric Ledermann. Together we met with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials and the legislative director for their House Representative, Kyrsten Sinema. Our calls helped make these meetings possible! When Rev. Ledermann and Mayra thanked me for our contributions to their efforts, I felt incredibly proud to represent the Reform rabbinate.

Washington, D.C., November 20, 2014 – In response to President Obama’s executive action providing new protections for nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Children represent an incredibly important part of the country, for they are one-quarter of the population. Beyond the numbers, children will be our next generation of workers and leaders. The share of federal funding directed towards children has declined and today amounts to under 8 percent of the overall budget.

In 2013, over 14.7 million children in the US were poor in 2013, and the majority of those children lived in families with working parents. 1 in 5 children in the US are currently living in poverty and 1.3 million school children are homeless. This high child’s poverty rate costs our country half a trillion dollars every year in lost productivity as well as in extra health and criminal justice costs; money that could better be spent on creating or implementing programs that could truly benefit these children and set them on a path towards progress.

I always find the week after elections to be a breath of fresh air. In the weeks (and months) before an election, we’re bombarded with political advertisements on TV and constantly confronted by friends who want us to help out their candidate. Reading the news offers no respite: NPR is saturated with stories of the campaign trail, and the New York Times is taken over by polling analysis. When the elections end, much of that bombardment subsides: I can catch up on the news stories I missed and the friendships I put aside for politics.