Following the Governor’s State of the State speech last week, a number of faith groups in New York have joined together to call for robust policies that further economic justice. Barbara Zaron, one of the RJVNYS co-chairs was quoted in three press releases speaking on behalf of RJV: (more…)
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.”
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)
On 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).
- The Governor has announced that as part of his Opportunity Agenda, he will seek to raise the minimum wage to $11.50/hr in New York City and $10.50/hr in the rest of the state. Although New York State currently has a higher minimum wage ($8/hr) than the federal average ($7.25/hr), it is still not a living wage. This has long been an issue of high importance for RJV, and will be critical to ameliorating economic inequality.
- 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.
- We were glad to hear Governor Cuomo mention the Women’s Equality Act in his inauguration speech. The Reform Movement has long prioritized women’s equality as the first Jewish denomination to ordain women — and we have long advocated for legislation that would ensure and enhance women’s rights and health. We support a Women’s Equality Act with all ten prongs, which would affirm our state’s commitment to reproductive rights and health.
- Criminal justice reform was mentioned in the speech, but following recent events in Ferguson, MO and in New York City, we anticipate that reform of the criminal justice system, with particular attention to police-community relations could become a centerpiece of the legislative agenda this year.
- In advance of the State of the State, Governor Cuomo released an Opportunity Agenda focusing on economic opportunity and a number of other measures. You can see the full information on the Opportunity Agenda here.
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.
Throughout 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.
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).
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.
It has become sort of a tradition for Black Friday to follow Thanksgiving, and for Cyber Monday to come two days later. But have you heard about Giving Tuesday?
Giving Tuesday is an international day of giving. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give back to their communities. It is also an opportunity to support organizations that fulfill the Jewish social justice imperative of championing the poor and the needy. As Jews, we are taught of the importance of giving generously to the needy and have no regrets when doing so.
As you plan for your gifts on Tuesday, December 2, please keep Reform Jewish Voice of New York State in mind. Your generous gift of even $18 goes a long way to support our work pursuing social justice in the Empire State. Here are the details!
In its second year, the Health Insurance Marketplace is working to insure millions of Americans who otherwise would not have health care. With many of the glitches from last year’s opening taken care of, New Yorkers are taking advantage of the enrollment period (November 15, 2014 until February 15, 2015) to get signed up for Obamacare. Here is a comprehensive map of New York State, showing the number of enrollees by zipcode so far this year:
This article from the New York Times, which ran before the enrollment period opened, describes a number of way different states prepared their state exchanges for November 15. As you may remember, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012), states could opt into Medicaid expansion and choose to create their own exchanges. New York State opted into both, and New York State of Health runs the state exchange. If you’re interested in signing up for health insurance via the exchange, here are some key things to keep in mind. (more…)
Earlier this month, the Steering Committee of Reform Jewish Voice of New York State met at the Temple Israel of Northern Westchester at our yearly gathering to set the stage for an exciting year of Jewish advocacy in pursuit of social justice in the Empire State.
At the meeting, the Steering Committee welcomed four new members: Joel Magid of Westchester Reform Temple (Scarsdale), Jane Meyers of Brooklyn Heights Synagogue (Brooklyn), Marc Landis of Congregation Rodeph Sholom and Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer also of Congregation Rodeph Sholom (New York).
We are also excited to announce that Joel Elliot of Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester, NY will join Barbara Zaron as a co-chair of RJV. Joel replaces Rabbi Jennifer Jaech of Temple Israel of Northern Westchester (Croton-on-Hudson, NY) after her incredible three years as co-chair. Rabbi Jaech remains on the Steering Committee, and will continue to provide critical guidance and wisdom for RJV.