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…)


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


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)


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.

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.


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).


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.

Published on November 21, 2014, by in RJV.

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.

description of an unselfie
As we get closer to Giving Tuesday, share what you’re doing for this international day of giving by taking an #UNselfie on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

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!

Learn more about how you can participate in Giving Tuesday.


Published on November 20, 2014, by in RJV.

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:

Map of health care enrollees by zip code in New York State

Click here to see the full interactive map.

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…)