Published on April 14, 2017, by in RJV.

On April 10, 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed “Raise the Age” legislation into law, bringing New York in line with the rest of the nation in how juvenile offenders are treated by state judicial systems.  (North Carolina is now the only state that treats 16- and 17-year-old defendants as adults.)  The legislative battle over “Raise the Age” was a primary cause for the delay in adopting the state budget, reflecting the intensity which both advocates and legislators brought to the effort.

Under the new law, 16- and 17-year-old misdemeanor defendants will have their cases heard in Family Court, while non-violent (and certain violent) felony cases will go initially to a special Criminal Court “youth part,” and then be sent to Family Court after 30 days unless a prosecutor proves “extraordinary circumstances.”  Over the next two and one-half years, youth offenders will no longer be held in adult prisons.  The legislation is imperfect and complex, as is often the case when dealing with hard-fought issues, but is certainly a vast improvement over current conditions.

We at Reform Jewish Voice of New York State congratulate our many allies with whom we have worked to reach this point.  This success comes after years of hard work — establishing relationships with our elected officials, building coalitions with other faith communities and advocates, and mobilizing thousands of people to take a stand.

Please join us for our Albany Advocacy Day on Monday, May 8, 2017, when we will have the opportunity to thank our legislators for their support of “Raise the Age” and advocate for our other priorities –  reproductive rights, public education and voting rights and electoral reform.  To sign up, click HERE.

Published on March 23, 2017, by in RJV.


Join RJV leaders and Jewish social justice advocates from across the Empire State for a face-to-face opportunity with your state elected officials. Meet us in Albany to speak truth to power about issues that matter and about cherished values that define us both as individuals and as a people.

We will be lobbying on the following issues: Reproductive rights, public education and voting rights and electoral reform.

May 8, 2017 in Albany, NY

Click Here to Register!

Published on February 17, 2017, by in RJV.

On January 17, the New York State Assembly passed the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (A1378), which would require insurers to provide copay-free coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives. Emergency contraception like Plan B, which typically costs upwards of $50 without a prescription, would be covered over the counter, and male contraception would also be covered. The legislation does not change existing federal rules creating a religious accommodation and exemption regarding contraceptive coverage.

On the same day the Assembly also passed the Reproductive Health Act (A1748), which would codify Roe v. Wade at the state level and ensure the right to an abortion in the state of New York with or without the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision. New York was one of the first states to legalize abortion in 1970, but currently has more stringent rules about a woman’s right to choose than Roe v. Wade dictates. In New York, a pregnancy can only be terminated after 24 weeks if a doctor has reason to believe that the pregnant woman’s life might be at stake, and A1748 would allow women in New York to access abortion care after 24 but weeks prior to viability. The bill passed the assembly with 97-49 votes.

On February 14, the Assembly passed A4876, legislation that would raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old. Each year, almost 28,000 16 and 17-year-olds are arrested and face the possibility of prosecution as adults in criminal court, and over 80% of those charged are adolescents of color. This bill would address those statistics, requiring the state to prosecute those under 18 as juveniles.

While all three pieces of legislation still need to pass the Senate, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has been very vocal about his support for these issues, adding to the momentum needed for these measures to become law. Gov. Cuomo proposed a state constitutional amendment to add the jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade into the New York Constitution, and issued an Executive Order in December 2015 to remove minors from adult prisons in an interim step pending the passage of the Raise the Age legislation.

The Reform Movement has long believed in both a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions. All life is sacred in Judaism; our tradition teaches that women must care for their own health and well-being above all else.

Just as our tradition also commands us to seek justice, a criminal justice system that punishes youth unjustly and discriminatorily violates this instruction.

Stay tuned for more information about these issues, and opportunities to engage with RJV to join us in building an Empire State of Tzedek.


Published on January 18, 2017, by in RJV.

As the New York State Legislature begins its 240th legislative session, RJV remains committed to fighting for economic and criminal justice reform. This month, RJV was represented at several key events in New York, including the 27th Annual People’s State of the State rally and a press conference on a key criminal justice issue, called Raise the Age.

The People’s State of the State, which predates current New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, is a time for organizations across New York State to come together to kick off a new legislative session in Albany, but it is also an opportunity to discuss the many issues that will be addressed in the coming year. Barbara Zaron, immediate past co-chair, was there representing RJV, and expressed the organization’s dedication to economic justice:

“The goal of economic justice for all requires us to address the many issues we are discussing in the People’s State of the State message including hunger, housing, homelessness, healthcare, pay equity, living wages, quality public education, human and civil rights, and the interconnectedness between them. Our faith teachings require us not only to give to the poor, but to advocate on their behalf. We are here today—and throughout the year—to speak up, judge righteously, and champion the poor and the needy.”

RJV was also present at a Raise the Age press conference the day after, hoping to urge Governor Cuomo and state legislators to pass a bill that would raise the age at which youth can be charged as adults. New York is one of only two states in the country that currently prosecutes youth as adults when they turn 16 years of age, despite the science that suggests that placing these individuals in the adult criminal justice system doesn’t work for them and doesn’t work for public safety. Barbara Zaron was at this event as well, and expressed great concern on behalf of the reform Jewish community:

“Grounded in Jewish teachings about compassion, mercy, redemption and justice, the Reform Jewish Movement has long expressed concern about the juvenile justice system and called for humane treatment of juvenile offenders. It has addressed and spoken out on ‘the serious moral and social issues which develop out of the special legal status of juveniles’ with a particular eye toward the ‘constitutional rights and civil liberties of juveniles’ and alternatives to incarceration. Raise the Age is a necessary step towards ensuring a fairer juvenile/criminal justice system in New York.”

This is going to be an important legislative year in New York, and RJV is committed to being heard on the issues that matter most.1280px-NYSCapitolPanorama

Published on January 18, 2017, by in RJV.

Join Reform Jewish Voice of New York State (RJV) and New York teens for a two-day program for teens in Albany to learn about social justice issues that affect New Yorkers across the Empire State, and then lobby your state representatives on Monday!

If you have attended the Religious Action Center’s L’Taken program, this is a great follow up opportunity to keep using those skills. If you’ve never been to L’Taken and just want more experience in social justice with a Reform Jewish perspective, this is the program for you!

Albany Advocacy Day is Sunday March 19 – Monday March 20, 2017. Click here to register.FullSizeRender

Published on December 13, 2016, by in RJV.


On October 30, RJV’s Steering Committee met at the beautiful Garrison Institute in Garrison, NY to build relationships, discuss important state issues and map out the future of RJV. We were thrilled to officially welcome our new co-chair, Marc Landis of Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Manhattan, who has shown exceptional leadership since he joined RJV in 2015. Marc will be succeeding Barbara Zaron of Congregation Beth Emeth in Albany, who will be taking on the title of Emeritus after two successful terms as co-chair. Barbara will continue to be involved in RJV’s work, providing insight and leadership as we move our advocacy forward.

We were also excited to welcome our newest Steering Committee members: Abby Nash of Congregation Beth Emeth (Albany), Té Revesz of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan and Richard Rosen of Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester. These three leaders bring with them years of advocacy experience and a passion for social justice, and we were thrilled to welcome them to RJV.

One of the major discussed points at our meeting was a continued dedication to the education situation in East Ramapo. This past June, Governor Cuomo signed a law to provide much-needed funding for key programs and oversight for  the East Ramapo school board.  , but it only lasts until June of 2017. We need to continue to ensure that the students of the East Ramapo Central School District can access robust public education, and will continue to be active in this work.

As we prepare for the 2017 legislative session and our work to create an Empire State of Tzedek, we wish you and your families Happy Hanukkah!

Published on July 14, 2016, by in RJV.

RJV Advocates Gather for our 2016 Advocacy Day


A few weeks after the end of the 2016 legislative session, Governor Andrew Cuomo has only recently finished signing the bills that passed during the final moments Assembly Members and Senators spent in Albany. As we look back on the session, though, we have important victories to celebrate on some of RJV’s priority issues for this year. (more…)

Published on June 17, 2016, by in RJV.

Victory in East Ramapo

Contact: Max Rosenblum or Jacob Kraus
202.387.2800 |

Albany, N.Y., June 17, 2016 – In response to the passage of A.10723/S.8131, a bill in the New York State legislature that will bring much-needed funding and oversight to the East Ramapo School District, Barbara Zaron and Richard C. Laskey, co-chairs of Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, issued the following statement: (more…)

Published on May 26, 2016, by in RJV.

RJV Advocacy Day AttendeesOn Monday, May 9, Reform Jewish social justice advocates from around New York State gathered in Albany for RJV’s annual Advocacy Day. These powerful leaders in their communities came together to articulate a vision for tzedek in the Empire State and to share that vision with their Assembly Members and Senators as the legislature sets its priorities for the waning days of the 2016 session. Check out photos from the day on RJV’s Facebook page. (more…)