Related Blog Posts on Advocacy, International Religious Freedom, and Social Justice

Free Speech and Freedom of Religion Belong Hand in Hand

May 15, 2015
The First Amendment ensures fundamental freedoms: freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly. Because they are listed out separately, we sometimes might fall into the problem of forgetting how closely linked and overlapping these freedoms are. Freedom of speech and religion also means freedom of speech about religion, even offensive, hateful speech. Yet, in many parts of the world where the dream of religious freedom is not a true reality, open discussion of religion is not tolerated.

Recognizing Both Narratives this Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day

October 13, 2014
In 1492, just over half a millennium ago, Christopher Columbus set sail on his famous voyage across the Atlantic and opened up the Western Hemisphere for European exploration in the early years of the Renaissance. Many of us have off of school and work today to celebrate that momentous achievement. In school, I remember long history lessons the day before Columbus Day, where I would learn about Columbus’ three ships—the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria—and the incredible impact that Columbus’ landing on the West Indies island of Hispaniola had on the entire world. We talked about how Columbus’ voyage paved the way for a place of religious freedom and tolerance, and of course, the United States.   However, we avoided talking about how the indigenous Taíno people were all but wiped out by their encounters with Columbus—up to 85% of their population no longer lived within a couple decades because of smallpox, famine, enslavement, and forced intermarriage. Our teachers shielded us from the historical narrative of the Taíno people, not only their destruction but also the rich culture they had in the Caribbean and their impact on our current society. We never talked about how the names we use to describe so many things in our culture, from “canoe” to “hurricane” to my favorite, “barbecue” came from the Taíno people.

This Week at the RAC: Apply for Nothing but Nets Fellowship; People's Climate March

September 19, 2014
As we finish up the last full week of our Jewish year, it’s been typically hopping at the RAC. Our program team of Michael Namath, Shira Zemel, Daniel Landesberg and Ariella Yedwab spent three days at the URJ’s Kutz Camp brainstorming, role-playing and case-studying along with the URJ’s Youth Division Staff, all with an eye to making our many youth-oriented RAC programs (L’Taken, Machon Kaplan, etc.) even better than they already are. Back here in DC, the LAs were zipping around from congressional hearings to mark-ups to meetings to briefings on Israel, voting rights, religious freedom and more.

Celebrating 40 Years of Rabbi David Saperstein

September 9, 2014

It was forty years ago today that one part of the landscape of American Jewish life was changed forever for the better. After a New York City goodbye party that featured a screening of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” a very eager and young Rabbi David Saperstein packed up his car and headed for the nation’s capital to begin an exciting new job, investing his life’s work in the growth and vibrancy of the Religious Action Center.

To honor David on his 40th Anniversary, we are establishing the Saperstein Legacy Fund for the Future of the RAC to serve the continuing growth and vitality of this remarkable institution - a jewel in the crown of our Reform Jewish Movement. Whatever you can contribute, whether $5 or $5,000, think what a 100% response will mean to David, to all who work at the RAC, and to the success of this campaign. Please take a moment right now to respond.

Introducing the New Eisendrath Legislative Assistants

September 4, 2014
It might not be 5775 just yet, but we know that this new year will be filled with sweetness, joy, and of course, justice. We are so thrilled that the 2014-2015 class of Eisendrath Legislative Assistants is here, ready to dive into their issues and join with our Movement to l'taken et haolam (repair the world). This bright, inquisitive, thoughtful class is already heading to their first coalition meetings, staffing projects, getting started on programming, and getting to know the ways of the RAC and Washington, D.C. We so look forward to the work they will do this year! From left to right in the group picture, they are:

Welcome to the 2014-2015 Class of Eisendrath Legislative Assistants

August 19, 2014
We are thrilled to welcome (L-R in the picture) Rachel, Jordan, Liya, Melanie, Claire and Jonathan to the Religious Action Center on their first day as the new Eisendrath Legislative Assistants. Over the next two weeks, the LAs will learn about the RAC, the Reform Movement, and how we do our social justice work within the larger community of advocates in Washington, D.C. This class is as bright, thoughful, and committed to tikkun olam as ever, and we can't wait to see the work they will accomplish in their year with us!