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Susannah R. Cohen

“Is such the fast I desire, A day for men to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head like a bulrush And lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, A day when the LORD is favorable?

No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock fetters of wickedness, And untie the cords of the yoke To let the oppressed go free; To break off every yoke.

It is to share your bread with the hungry, And to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him, And not to ignore your own kin.” (Isaiah 58:5-7)


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Each year, my dad starts our seder the same way: “We learn that on the seventh day of creation, God stopped working. In Hebrew, vayishbot bayom hashvi'i. The word vayishbot comes from the same root as the word sh'viytah, or strike. So what does the Torah really say? On the seventh day of creation, God went on strike.”

While my dad might have taken some liberties with his translation, he was right about Judaism’s deep roots in the labor movement. Our texts are full of commandments to ensure workers’ dignity, including the broad instruction that “you shall not abuse a needy...

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Bouquet of flowers with ribbon and Mother's Day tag standing in front of striped painted wall

This piece originally ran as a Strategies for Sisterhood Success item in Women of Reform Judaism's Weekly Digest newsletter.

Mother’s Day is a day when we celebrate the women who raised us. To show our love and appreciation, we often give gifts—jewelry, clothing, tickets to a show. While these gifts are wonderful, we should also work towards giving our mothers one gift in particular that could change their lives tremendously—paid family leave. Family leave has only been around in the United States for a short period. Before 1993, workers had no federal protections to take family...

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This piece originally ran as a post on WRJ's blog.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time for us to reflect and re-educate ourselves on the unyielding problem of sexual assault. In the last few months, the #MeToo movement has shifted the national conversation towards the issue of workplace sexual harassment. While related, it is important to continue the discussion around sexual assault as its own issue, building on the awareness that has grown in the last few years. Campus sexual assault remains a pervasive problem and focus on it has reignited in response to troubling...

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This piece originally ran as a post on WRJ's blog. 

On the day before this year’s Equal Pay Day (April 10th), the day when women's average earnings finally catch up to men's average earnings from the previous year, equal pay advocates received a gift: a favorable court decision. On Monday, April 9, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals released its unanimous decision for Rizo v. Yovino, ruling that employers cannot consider prior salary when determining an employee’s pay. This decision affirmed equal pay advocates’ claim that using prior salary to determine pay perpetuates the...

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