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Last week, the co-chairs of Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, Barbara Zaron and Joel Elliot, sent letters to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on critical education issues.

The letters focused on the education incentives investment tax credit and the NY DREAM Act, which had been linked in the budget before it had been removed shortly before the budget was approved at the end of March. (more…)

 
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Amy Paulin speaking on the Assembly floor

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, the lead sponsor of the bill. Image courtesy of the Yonkers Tribune.

On Monday, the New York State Assembly passed the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act, which strengthens criminal penalties for sex trafficking. This bill had already been passed by the Senate, alongside eight other points of the Women’s Equality Act.

While RJV took no position on the content of this one part of the 10-point Women’s Equality Act (WEA), this move by the Assembly is noteworthy because they have until recently refused to separate out the points of the WEA and pass each bill separately. This strategy has been shaped in part by opposition in the Senate to the 10th point of the plan, which would codify Roe v. Wade in New York State law, and enact further protections and provisions relating to reproductive rights.

RJV has long advocated for a full WEA — at our last Advocacy Day we lobbied for the reproductive health component, as our Reform Jewish values compel us to ensure that each woman has access to full reproductive health care, and is fully acknowledged as her own moral decision-maker.

To learn more about key social justice issues and to lobby your elected state representatives, register for RJV Advocacy Day on May 4, 2015 in Albany, NY.

If you interested in another comprehensive social justice experience, join the RJV delegation to the Consultation on Conscience in Washington, D.C. from April 26-28. There will be an opportunity for RJV supporters to convene at the Consultation, so register here and stay tuned for more information.

 
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Earlier this week, we had the pleasure of joining NFTY-NAR for Albany Advocacy Day, in which over 80 teens descended on Albany for a two-day program about Reform Judaism and social justice.

On Sunday, the teens learned about five different topics: raising the minimum wage, gender expression non-discrimination, the Women’s Equality Act, education (including the NY DREAM Act) and disability rights. The teen leaders wrote and executed their own programs, to teach their peers about these crucial social justice issues. (more…)

 
 
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New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered a combined State of the State address and 2015-2016 budget proposal yesterday. The presentation addressed a myriad of issues, many of which are of significance to RJV and our work to promote social justice in New York. These topline proposals align with our work, and as we get more in-depth in the budget process, we will provide more insight and advocacy opportunities:

 

 

Economic Justice: The Governor announced measures to increase funding for emergency food programs, affordable housing and raising the minimum wage to $10.50/hour across the state and $11.50/hour in New York City. The Torah emphasizes the importance of a worker’s wages (Deuteronomy 24:14-15) but also commands us to advocate behalf of the vulnerable: we are told in Proverbs 31:9 to “speak up, judge righteously, and champion the poor and the needy.”

Read more about economic justice

(more…)

 
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Published on January 8, 2015, by in RJV.

On Sunday, February 8, members of the Westchester community are invited to an advocacy training run in conjunction with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

During the daylong training, participants will have a chance to understand some of the global, national and local issues concerning us and how to advocate effectively both as Reform Jews and as citizens. Finally, synagogue leaders will have the opportunity to network and share ideas and resources regarding social justice initiatives. RJV leaders will be participating as facilitators of some of the issue-focused programming.

The event is open to the Reform Jewish community – perfect for congregational leadership, clergy, social action chairs, teens or any congregant interested in our collective work of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and launching local initiatives.

More information and registration is below:

Union for Reform Judaism Westerchester/Greenwich Community Advocacy Training Day

Sunday, February 8, 2015 from 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM at Congregation Kol Ami (252 Soundview Avenue, White Plains, New York  10606)

$36 per person (includes training, materials and meals for the day)

REGISTER HERE

 
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Published on January 5, 2015, by in RJV.

State of the State 2015On January 21, 2014 at 1:30PM, Governor Andrew Cuomo will deliver the State of the State address. We will have coverage and our response on the day, but in anticipation of the speech, here’s what we’re anticipating:

 

  • In his inauguration address, Governor Cuomo talked about the importance of growing the economy, creating jobs and reducing the state’s debt. This is of key importance, but we hope that this is not done at the expense of key social safety programs that aim to reduce economic inequality and that support the most vulnerable in our society. Jewish tradition teaches the calls on us to”speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy” (Proverbs 31:9).

 

 

  • Education remains a key issue for the governor and for RJV. With the implementation of the universal Pre-K program in New York, there might be more such initiatives coming from Albany. We know the importance of a high-quality public school system, and would support measures that aim to improve the public schools. Last legislative session, RJV opposed tax credits for religious educational institutions. While we recognize the importance of religious education, it should to be funded privately, so as not to compromise the public schools and the separation of church and state which we value so highly.

 

 

Stay tuned for our response to the State of the State, and for the Governor’s Budget that is anticipated toward the end of January.

 
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Published on December 23, 2014, by in RJV.

menorah lit with all candlesThroughout the holiday of Hanukkah, we light candles, eat latkes and spin the dreidel. For eight nights, we come together with our friends, family and community to celebrate our religious freedom, and are reminded of our struggles – both past and present – for Jewish self-determination.

This time of year, we are especially reminded of the many other freedoms we are privileged to have, and of the importance of recommitting ourselves to ensuring that all people enjoy the same rights and protections to which we all aspire. That’s why Reform Jewish Voice of New York State is so committed totikkun olam – to repairing the world through advocacy in New York State.

(more…)

 
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Published on December 17, 2014, by in RJV.
fracking in nighttime

Image courtesy of the New York Times.

On Wednesday, officials in the Cuomo Administration made public their opposition to hydraulic fracturing in New York State. In an open end-of-year cabinet meeting, Acting Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker stated that he “could not support high-volume hydraulic fracturing” in New York.

In his presentation, Zucker made clear that the data on the impact of fracking is not conclusive, but still went forward with his recommendation. It is important that we continue to research and learn about the effects of fracking on the environment and how we in New York State are also trying to encourage alternative energy sources to oil (despite the Hanukkah season).

(more…)

 
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Published on December 4, 2014, by in RJV, URJ.

We were pleased to join the President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, in a statement in response to the grand jury decision in the case of the death of Eric Garner of New York, NY:

We are anguished by the circumstances surrounding the death of Eric Garner during an encounter with an NYPD officer. Mr. Garner’s death, one in an unmistakable wave of cases across the country involving the questionable use of deadly force by police, is endemic of a much broader and complex crisis of structural racial inequality in our country.While the legal process has played itself out and resulted in the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer, the underlying issues – including police practices, racial divides within the community and economic and social inequality – must be addressed head on. Every American should have faith and trust in law enforcement and our judicial system. Sadly, today this is too often not the case. Mr. Garner’s death illustrates these concerns.

We support Attorney General Eric Holder’s federal investigation. Systemic change is needed, and state, local and municipal governments are key partners, especially working with police and community representatives, to begin the process of healing and strengthening that must be done in the wake of this decision. while our institutions need critical reform, this kind of change must also be addressed through reflection and commitment – from individuals and a diverse array of communities – to transforming what is wrong in America regarding race. The religious community can and must lead this transformation, and we are committed to playing a leadership role to move the conversation, and our country, forward.

The co-chairs of Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, Barbara Zaron and Joel Elliot, also added: “As moral advocates for social justice in New York, we know that all New Yorkers must come together to ensure equal justice not only as a value, but as a reality. We encourage members of our community to work to build relationships and advocate with us on issues of economic and racial inequality, including reform of our criminal justice system, voting rights and protection of civil rights.

May we across New York City and the nation, in our congregations, communities and homes, come together to overcome these challenges and emerge renewed in our work to achieve our highest ideals.