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Dear Friend,

Reform Jewish Voice of New York State (RJV) is our collective voice for Jewish social justice advocacy in New York. Our mission is to promote state legislation and governmental actions that embody the principles of the Reform Jewish movement through education on the critical issues facing our state and advocacy in Albany and local legislative districts. RJV is modeled on the nationwide efforts of the Commission on Social Action and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

The work of RJV is directed by a Steering Committee of committed volunteers from across the state. We are currently seeking nominations for new Steering Committee members. You may nominate yourself or another individual with a passion for social justice work who can help RJV grow as an effective voice for Reform Judaism and advocate for social justice. If you wish to nominate another person, please discuss this with your proposed nominee and assess his/her willingness to serve on the committee before submitting his/her nomination.

The Steering Committee is composed of up to 18 members serving three-year terms. New members will begin their terms on November 1, 2015. (more…)

 
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Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan press conference

Image courtesy of North Country Public Radio

After extending the session a number of days, nearly a week and half, the Senate and Assembly ended the legislative session last week, in many ways taking the wind out of the sails of a number of crucial social justice causes, many of which are of key interest for RJV. (more…)

 
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After a long, arduous effort this legislative session, the East Ramapo oversight bill failed to make it through the State Senate. This is a major setback after building momentum towards oversight in East Ramapo over the past few months with incredible advocacy from the community in East Ramapo and important contributions from the Reform Jewish community as well. (more…)

 
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Published on June 25, 2015, by in RJV.

Although it might seem that the legislative session could end any day now, our social justice work in New York State will continue on. RJVNYS submitted testimony for the Wage Board Hearing on Minimum Wage Increase in the Fast Food Industry on Thursday, in support of raising the minimum wage to a true living wage indexed to inflation. You can read the testimony in full below: (more…)

 
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Join us in Albany on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 for a press conference and meetings with legislative leaders on this critical issue. 

  • In preparation for the events on June 10, please join us for a conference call on Monday, June 8 at 8 pm. Will provide background information, talking points and logistics for Wednesday. RSVP here.
  • The press conference will begin at 9:30 am at Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY.
  • Legislative meetings will begin at 11 am in the Legislative Office Building or the Capitol Building.
  • RSVP for the June 10 events here.

This advocacy day is being organized by the Religious Action Center, Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, Strong East Ramapo and Rockland Clergy for Social Justice.

Clergy in East RamapoThere is a bill before the New York State Legislature that would provide the much-needed oversight of the East Ramapo School district, where public school students are being deprived of educational opportunities because of the ruinous decisions of the school board members.

The East Ramapo School District in Rockland County, NY includes a large Orthodox Haredi community and a large African American and Hispanic immigrant community. The East Ramapo School Board is composed of 70% Haredi members, even though most Haredi children in this school district attend private yeshivas and most African American and Hispanic children attend the public schools. (more…)

 
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church state separation cartoonRJV has been actively engaged in the fight against the education tax credit. Over the past few months, this proposal has come up in many forms. Earlier in May, we sent a letter to all members of the Senate and Assembly outlining our position on this issue, and why we oppose this legislation because of strong support for public education and church-state separation.

You can take action today and urge your legislator to oppose this measure. Click here for our action alert and to learn more about this issue.

 

These education tax credits will direct taxpayer dollars to private, often parochial, schools, where public funds should support public schools. Not only does this bill compromise public education, but it also puts at risk church-state separation when taxpayer dollars support religious schools.

 
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Recently, Henry Greenberg, New York State monitor to the East Ramapo Central School District, reported that children attending East Ramapo public schools are not receiving fair, equitable and just access to educational opportunities. Jewish values call on us to cherish education and pursue justice, and both are at risk for the children attending public school in East Ramapo.

LEARN MORE AND TAKE ACTION HERE

(more…)

 
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As the legislative session comes to a close in the middle of June, legislators and advocates alike are working to ensure that their particular issue gets a vote in both the State Senate and Assembly. Though the education tax credit came up in the budget negotiations and was ultimately removed from consideration along the NY DREAM Act, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been promoting the education tax credit as a standalone proposal.

In keeping with our longstanding advocacy on this issue, RJV co-chairs Barbara Zaron and Joel Elliot sent a letter to every member of the New York Legislature on Tuesday morning urging them to oppose the proposal. Their letter highlights the importance of public education, and how the fundamental values of church-state separation and religious freedom are compromised by education tax credits:

Any program that permits private, religious schools students to receive public funds through a scholarship program – essentially, a voucher program – is poor public policy and invites legal challenges as well as U.S. and New York State constitutional challenges on church-state separation grounds. A central principle of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause is that members of particular faiths, and not the government, should fund religious institutions. We are also concerned that religious schools whose students receive these funds could lose their autonomy because with government money comes government rules and regulations. Such control would not be beneficial for either religious organizations or the government.

You can read the letter in full here.

 
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Published on May 8, 2015, by in Advocacy Day.

On May 4, along with Rabbi Sarah Abrams and other congregants from Westchester Reform Temple, I enthusiastically participated in my first experience advocating for human rights and social issues important to Reform Jews. Meeting New York State district representatives, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Senator George Latimer, in their offices, was a valuable sit-down-opportunity to share a Reform Jewish perspective on specific legislative issues and to listen to our elected representatives. And they did listen. They spoke openly, informatively and instructively on the issues of the Reproductive Rights Service Act, Gender Expression Non-discrimination and the NYS DREAM Act. I was quite impressed by their in-depth knowledge of the benefits of each bill and the challenges facing successful passage of the legislation. They told us how important hearing from our perspective was. (more…)

 
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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…)