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Albany, N.Y., January 9, 2014: In response to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address on January 8, 2014, RJV Co-Chairs Barbara Zaron and Jennifer Jaech issued the following statement:

 

Reform Jewish Voice of New York State (RJV), the Reform Movement’s social justice advocate in New York, sees the Governor’s State of the State message as a mixed bag.

On the positive side, we enthusiastically supported enactment of marriage equality and the minimum wage measures that the Governor spearheaded. We lauded the Governor’s continued commitment to the entire 10 point Women’s Equality Agenda and to Campaign Finance and Ethics Reform, two priority issues on our advocacy agenda going forward.  We are members of the Women’s Equality and the Fair Elections coalitions to advocate for such legislation.

We are also encouraged by the Governor’s embrace of full-day universal pre-K statewide and his desire to upgrade technology in schools.  We do, however; have many questions about the funding and implementation of these measures, which we hope will be outlined in the Governor’s budget proposal on January 21.  

Nevertheless, notwithstanding these important education initiatives, we are concerned that there was no mention about some of the factors that impede learning such as homelessness, hunger, physical and mental health and other social safety net issues. With homelessness and hunger, child poverty and income inequality at near-record levels, we were surprised that the Governor failed to address the need for additional investment, other than the proposed $100 million for affordable housing, to address these serious social problems.  We were also surprised that no mention was made of the DREAM Act or immigration reform, both issues of importance to the Reform community.  We are looking forward to the release of the Governor’s budget proposal to see if these issues are addressed there.

Our RJV advocacy agenda this year will include strengthening and adequately funding anti-hunger and homeless programs.  As stated in Isaiah 58:7, God commands us to “share our bread with the hungry and bring the homeless into our house” and our sages taught that feeding the hungry is one of our most important responsibilities on earth.  We will also continue our advocacy for enactment of the 10-point Women’s Equality Agenda and for campaign finance and ethics reform.