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.
RJV 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.
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.
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…)
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…)
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.
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.
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…)
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)