Judaism teaches that helping fellow human beings in need, tzedakah, is not simply a matter of charity, but of responsibility, righteousness, and justice. The Reform Movement has always acted upon fundamental Jewish ideals by advocating for children, the poor, the disenfranchised, the elderly, the sick, those with disabilities, and the "stranger among us."
Why Should Jews Care About Economic Justice?
Deuteronomy 15:7-10 teaches of our societal commitment to helping those in need: "If there is a needy person among you...do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kin. Rather, you must open your hand and lend whatever is sufficient to meet the need." Whether someone is experiencing hunger or homelessness, is in need of clothing or medical care, we do not help them because they have met a certain standard of worthiness in our eyes. We help them because no one deserves to be hungry or homeless.
The cost of living in the United States has long eclipsed the minimum wage. At $7.25 per hour, an employee who is working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks a year, earns only $15,080. An increase to the minimum wage is imperative if we expect people to be able to support themselves with a full-time job. It's time that our federal minimum wage becomes a living wage. Urge your member of Congress to support the Raise the Wage Act.
As the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers are staying home to care for themselves, for children whose schools are closed, and for family members who are ill or at high risk. While the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201 in the 116th Congress) provided some workers 10 emergency paid sick days and 12 weeks of emergency paid leave to care for children out of school, the majority of workers were not adequately covered, and paid leave provisions expired at the end of 2020. Urge Congress to pass the FAMILY Act (S. 248/H.R. 804) to provide paid family and medical leave for all workers in America.
The recent House-passed debt ceiling bill threatens to dramatically weaken key social safety net programs, including Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and housing assistance. These programs are critical to assisting individuals and families experiencing economic hardships. Congress must protect and strengthen the programs that allow people to live with dignity.
Hunger is an endemic problem that plagues all aspects of our society. Despite being one of the wealthiest nations in the world, 1 in 9 Americans (more 40 million individuals)—including over 11 million children—live in households that are food insecure.
The Reform Jewish Movement has repeatedly called attention to the need to increase the availability of affordable housing and provide the means for people experiencing homelessness to make the transition from shelters and streets to stable homes.
The minimum wage is the absolute minimum amount a person can earn. Yet, at $7.25 per hour, an employee who is working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks a year, earns only $15,080.
The Jewish people, and the Reform Movement, have deep historical ties to the labor movement. To this day, labor unions remain one of the best ways to ensure workers receive the compensation, benefits, and safe working conditions they need.
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What our Partners are Doing
- The Reform Movement is proud to be a member of the Coalition on Human Needs, an alliance of national organizations working to promote public policies which address the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations.
- The Reform Movement is also a member of the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs (DHN), one of the oldest working groups within the Washington Interreligious Staff Community (WISC). We are proud to work alongside our faith partners to advance federal policies that will help eliminate the root causes of poverty and enable individuals and their families to live with dignity.