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Updated: 55 min 19 sec ago

Rachel Timoner Brings Social Justice Focus to Brooklyn's Congregation Beth Elohim

Tue, 02/10/2015 - 16:53

One of the top agenda items these days for Rachel Timoner, associate rabbi at the Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, is trying to get a train built along the I-405 freeway stretching from the North San Fernando Valley to the city’s international airport.

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Alan Parsons Will Play Tel Aviv, Despite Roger Waters' Objections

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 18:40

Alan Parsons will be playing Tel Aviv over the objections of fellow British musician Roger Waters, a BDS supporter.

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L’Taken Participants Lobby for Campaign Finance Reform

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 13:00

At the last L’Taken seminar, Illinois students lobbied their Senators and Representative about the critical importance of campaign finance reform. Jonah Helbraun and Ryan Liberman of Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, IL, and Francesca Block of Congregation Hakafa in Glencoe, IL, joined forces to share facts, Jewish values, and a powerful story about the real effects of money in politics in their community:

Ryan: Campaign finance has largely become about who has more money. In the 2014 midterm elections, we saw the most expensive Senate race in the history of this government. In this North Carolina race, candidates and outside groups spent a combined $111 million, the first ever Senate race to surpass $100 million. In total, the mid-term election cost about $3.67 billion this year, a conservative estimate that only includes spending disclosed to the Federal Election commission.

Jonah: Every person’s opinion counts, but in today’s politics, not every person is being heard. The Torah speaks on the negatives of taking a bribe: taking bribes “blinds the cause of those who are right.” Although campaign contributions are not bribes, they unfortunately force the same result. The current campaign finance system takes candidates’ minds away from the people and from their ideals, instead forcing the candidates to focus on the wealthy few. This system also stops potential candidates from running, as potential candidates cannot afford to run a successful campaign. The Torah teaches that everyone should have the same rights and the same chances in life. But, unfair campaign finance places candidates who are not independently wealthy or highly funded on a lower playing field.

Francesca: I know someone who has been affected by the unjust campaign finance system. This person is extremely close to me and influential in my life. He is a patient, intelligent, and thoughtful person. I believe that he would bring forth an important perspective on political issues happening in Illinois and around the country. Unfortunately, the idea that elections are greatly influenced by fundraising has persuaded this person to stay away from running from office. He felt that even though he was particularly well-off, he was not nearly wealthy enough to finance a campaign. He is an honest man who wanted his views to align by his personal faith and the beliefs of his constituents instead of the ideas of his sponsors. Therefore, my friend felt that the odds were stacked against him. Without the proper access to the funds other campaigners used, this man felt that he lacked an essential piece of that support.

Now think about this: A man, living in a relatively wealthy city in Illinois, who has a successful career and strongly believes in his values, was convinced that he could not effectively run for office because he felt that he could not raise enough money to have a successful campaign. If a well off citizen feels he cannot run, what about those less well-off or those who fall below the poverty line? Many of these people know the issues at the center of policy and legislation in the United States, yet their economic situation holds them back from sharing their opinion. These people cannot even think about running for office and trying to raise the millions of dollars necessary to run a successful campaign. The United States loses crucial voices all around the country because of the expenses of running a campaign. How can Congress and other sections of government fully represent the United States if the majority of officials come from places where they have easier access to funding?

Indeed, we must work together to ensure that candidates can focus on their constituents rather on their campaign funds, and that money in politics does not prevent qualified candidates from running in the first place. Take inspiration from Francesca, Jonah and Ryan’s action to urge your Members of Congress to support fair elections today.

Britain Must Take 'Immediate Action' to Quash Anti-Semitism, Report States

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 12:05

Instituting measures to deal with hate crimes on social media and a government fund to protect synagogues are among 35 recommendations offered by a British parliamentary inquiry into rising anti-Semitism.

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David Stav Named Co-Chief of Ohr Torah Stone

Sun, 02/08/2015 - 19:13

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin reportedly has named a potential successor for his Modern Orthodox educational network Ohr Torah Stone.

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Congregation Beth Elohim Names Rachel Timoner as Senior Rabbi

Sun, 02/08/2015 - 18:38

Rachel Timoner has been named senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Elohim, replacing Andy Bachmann at the helm of the prominent Brooklyn Reform synagogue, the Forward has learned.

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Did Rabbi Molest Baltimore Girl's Sisters Too?

Sun, 02/08/2015 - 08:32

New details have reportedly emerged in the case of an Ohio rabbi accused of sexually abusing a Jewish Baltimore girl.

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Reform's Rick Jacobs Presses Benjamin Netanyahu To Call Off Speech to Congress

Sat, 02/07/2015 - 18:00

Pressure is growing on Benjamin Netanyahu to scrap his speech to Congress as Rabbi Rick Jacobs joins a chorus of opposition. Will he seek a face-saving exit strategy — or dig in his heels?

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Bob Dylan, Known for Silence on Stage, Speaks for 40 Minutes at Tribute

Sat, 02/07/2015 - 07:53

Bob Dylan, known for playing concerts with barely a word spoken to his audience, gave a lengthy speech on Friday at a gala in his honor where he chronicled the roots of his music while also praising and ribbing famous figures.

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Of Touro Synagogue, Hasbro and 10 Other Things About Jewish Rhode Island

Sat, 02/07/2015 - 06:00

Rhode Island has the nation’s oldest synagogue and an illustrious Jewish population — from Newport jazz promoter George Wein to the creator of Mr. Potato Head.

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