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Last week, Congress moved closer to passing legislation preventing domestic abusers and stalkers from purchasing or possessing guns, as Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) and Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL-10) introduced the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act (H.R. 3130). The bipartisan bill would close a loophole in federal law that allows some perpetrators of domestic violence to access firearms. Crucially, it would expand the definition of “intimate partners” to the definition used in the 2012 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act: someone who has been in a romantic or intimate relationship with the abuser. The bill also adds convicted stalkers to the list of those prohibited from purchasing and possessing guns.
The past few weeks have brought mixed news in the realm of sexuality education. At the end of June, we wrote about a House sub-committee vote to eliminate programs proven to reduce teen and unplanned pregnancy, reduce abortion and save tax dollars in Fiscal Year 2016. Since then, a Senate sub-committee voted to advance similar cuts, proposing a budget that would significantly cut funding for the evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) and for Title X family planning centers, while increasing funding for abstinence-only until marriage programs by 300 percent. By gutting funding to family planning services for low-income individuals and undermining evidence-based programs like TPPP, these appropriations bills would leave millions of Americans without information and services to keep themselves safe and healthy.
Our hearts are heavy today after learning of a vicious act of terrorism in the West Bank, in which Israelis are suspected of setting the home of a Palestinian family on fire. Tragically, the fire claimed the life of a toddler and badly injured others. Rabbi Jonah Pesner offered thoughts on the tragedy:
On the plane back from my year in Israel as part of my first year of rabbinical school, I had the privilege of sitting next to a man who had participated in a Christian mission trip in Israel.
By Joey Rosen On the plane back from my Year-In-Israel as part of my first year of rabbinical school at HUC-JIR, I had the privilege of sitting next to a man who had participated in a Christian mission trip in Israel. It was a pleasure sharing with him my journey that led me to rabbinical school, a conversation he might have never had before. I also got to enjoy a different perspective on seeing Israel for the first time, as I had no previous knowledge of how a Christian mission trip to Israel works. But before he said ‘God Bless’ and dozed off for the nine hour flight, he made a comment to me about how the Christians of America were cheering for us in our war against the Muslims, who are polluting the land with violence and treachery.
This Shabbat in parashat Pinchas, we read the story of the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27:1–11). After Zelophehad died, leaving no sons, his five daughters, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah, went before Moses, Eleazer the priest and the Jewish people and advocated for their rights to inherit the land their father left behind. Based on the logic of their argument, and the need for self-subsistence, God instructed Moses to grant the daughters their land, and set the precedence that hence, women ought to inherit their father’s property if there was no other direct kin. Within the patriarchal structures of Biblical-era society, this is an enormous moment for Jewish women’s empowerment, and this story is applicable today.
Fifty years ago, on July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Social Security Act Amendments, which established Medicare and Medicaid and dramatically changed the landscape of health insurance in America. Before the programs went into effect, approximately half of all seniors lacked insurance and many other people, especially people with disabilities, families with children, pregnant women and low-income Americans were unable to afford the medical services they needed. Today, Medicare and Medicaid provide health insurance to about one in three Americans—that’s more than 100 million people!