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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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National Prayer Breakfast

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 16:00

People from many faiths gathered in Washington for the 63rd annual National Prayer Breakfast, including the Dalai Lama. One major theme this year was fighting religious extremism, which President Obama said “is not unique to one group or one religion.”

The post National Prayer Breakfast appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

National Prayer Breakfast

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 16:00

People from many faiths gathered in Washington for the 63rd annual National Prayer Breakfast, including the Dalai Lama. One major theme this year was fighting religious extremism, which President Obama said “is not unique to one group or one religion.”

The post National Prayer Breakfast appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

The Fight for Religious Freedom Continues On: Wise Words from the National Prayer Breakfast

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 11:25

Yesterday, President Obama spoke at the 63rd annual National Prayer Breakfast. The breakfast was attended by legislators, officials and clergy, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama and our new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Rabbi David Saperstein. The President spoke of the power of faith as an inspiration and unifying force, as well as the way faith can be used as a wedge or a weapon to divide us. 

In his remarks, the President reminded us of the wisdom of the American Founders in protecting the freedom of religion and ensuring the separation of church and state. In praising this model, President Obama recalled the responsibility we have to defend religious freedom for all people. . Below is an excerpt of his remarks, where the President emphasizes the importance of fighting for international religious freedom.  The full remarks can be found here.

“…as people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends.  And here at home and around the world, we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom — freedom of religion — the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.

…And if, in fact, we defend the legal right of a person to insult another’s religion, we’re equally obligated to use our free speech to condemn such insults and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities who are the targets of such attacks.  Just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t question those who would insult others in the name of free speech.  Because we know that our nations are stronger when people of all faiths feel that they are welcome, that they, too, are full and equal members of our countries.

…Our government does not sponsor a religion, nor does it pressure anyone to practice a particular faith, or any faith at all.  And the result is a culture where people of all backgrounds and beliefs can freely and proudly worship, without fear, or coercion.”

As Reform Jews, we understand intimately the importance of international religious freedom, and our Movement has long been an advocate for the rights of religious minorities around the world. We believe firmly that all individuals may live according to the teachings of their faith – or non-faith. This speech is a timely reminder for all of us that the laws that protect religious freedom and church-state separation have allowed the Jewish people and other religious minorities to flourish in the United States, while elsewhere in the world they are face persecution and oppression.

Our tradition teaches us, “God said to Moses: Is there anyone whom I do not respect? Whether it be Israelite or Gentile, man or woman, slave or handmaid, whoever does a good deed, shall find the reward at its side” (Midrash Yalku Lech Lecha 76). We learn from this text that we should be judged based on our deeds, not our religious beliefs. As we as individuals seek to live our lives conscious of being created in the image of the Divine (Genesis 1:27), President Obama reminds us that we must work to ensure that no one is discriminated based on his or her religious beliefs.

Check out our website for more information about our work on international religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

British TV Station Uses Gaza Backdrop in Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis Interview on Holocaust

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 11:19

The British broadcaster Sky News apologized for showing images of the Gaza conflict during an interview about the Holocaust with British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

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Right-Wing British Party Calls for Kosher Slaughter Ban

Wed, 02/04/2015 - 08:43

Britain’s right-wing UKIP party has come out in support of passing legislation that would ban the production of ritually slaughtered meat.

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New York Jewish Day School Teacher Charged With Kiddie Porn

Tue, 02/03/2015 - 07:46

A rabbi and a former Judaic studies teacher in Westchester County, N.Y., has been arrested and charged with receiving and possessing child pornography.

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Jordan Will Return Ambassador to Israel As Tensions Ease on Temple Mount

Mon, 02/02/2015 - 09:59

Jordan will return its ambassador to Israel, three months after withdrawing him over tensions on the Temple Mount.

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Georgia Teens Tell Their Members of Congress to Raise The Wage

Sun, 02/01/2015 - 13:00

At the January 9-12, 2015 L’Taken Social Justice Seminar, Jason Weiner, Joey Chanin, Drew Baker, and Jacob Shippel from Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell, Georgia spoke to staff from the offices of Georgia Senators Johnny Isakson and Senator David Perdue, and Congressman Tom Price (GA-6) to share why raising the minimum wage is important to them as Jews, as Americans, as Georgians, and as young people. Here are some excerpts from their speech:

“An important ideal that Judaism instructs all practicing Jews to perform throughout their lives is that of tikkun olam, or “healing the world.” This “healing” can be done anywhere, at any time, at any scale. As you can tell, tikkun olam is especially important to us as Reform Jews, because we have chosen to learn about and summon the courage to inform you on our positions regarding several current social justice issues. In fact, Tikkun Olam is arguably one of the most important Jewish values. The Torah teaches us that providing for those in need is not a matter of charity, but rather an obligation. The book of Deuteronomy teaches the following, “If there is a needy person among you…do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your kin. Rather, you must open your hand and lend whatever is sufficient.”

As teens who belong to a community that so encourages caring for the underprivileged, it is important that we voice our opinions on various issues surrounding America, especially those that are hindering the advancement of our country and its people. Increasing the minimum wage to a value at which all citizens can truly make a living would be a major step forward in ensuring economic equality … At this magnitude, an increase in the federal minimum wage would serve as the first step in progressing to a time in which economic equality can be a realistic future for our country – one step closer to achieving true tikkun olam. One of Judaism’s greatest teachers once said: “the person who lends money [to a poor person] is greater than the person who gives charity; and the one who throws money into a common purse [to form a partnership with the poor person] is greater than either.” We are instructed to help those less fortunate on the path to self-sufficiency so that one day they will not need assistance. Raising the minimum wage will ensure that the future is bright for low-income citizens, so that in the future they will no longer need to ask. Let us not simply lend money to those less fortunate, let’s build them a future on which they can be sure they will thrive.

Over the past summer I had the honor to volunteer at a camp run by Reform Jewish teens called Camp Jenny which takes place at Camp Coleman in Cleveland Georgia in which we raise money every year to send over one hundred FL Stanton Elementary school children from inner-city Atlanta who come from low income families to camp for a weekend.  That weekend was one of the most eye opening weekends of my life, and that is a huge reason why this issue is so important to me.  When I was bringing my bunk back to the cabin, a new third grade camper takes a look at the cabin and says “oh my god these are like real houses!” That moment it all came real. My co-counselor and I were shocked and welling up with tears, but we had to keep it together and smile to uplift these kids and try to have them make the most of the experience.

Most of the staff complain about the conditions of the cabins, but the feelings the campers have about cabins in which many think are disgusting and decrepit, are feeling that they are real houses and better than what they are living in now. That mindset is what many of us don’t understand. These campers come from low income households with parents of minimum wage jobs, but many of us don’t understand what that is like. These kids have so much spirit and potential but the situation they are in is holding them back. The staff bonds with these kids despite the socio-economic differences to bring hope to these troubled kids. We need to raise the minimum wage because the lack of income coming to these families are holding back these kids that in the end are just kids, but unwillingly restrained from their potential by the unjust restrictions of the minimum wage.”

These students’ stories remind us of the importance of raising the minimum wage, which would lift nearly 5 million Americans out of poverty. Since workers are not paid enough, they have to turn to federal safety net programs because they are paid too little at work to make ends meet on their own. Now, new legislation needs to be introduced that would call for a minimum wage increase. Six states, Washington, D.C., and several cities already have or soon will raise minimum wages to above $10/hour, and it’s time for our federal government to catch up.  Take action now and urge your Members of Congress to support legislation to raise the minimum wage!

Gaza Music School Shines in 'Arabs Got Talent' Spotlight

Sun, 02/01/2015 - 09:42

On the hugely popular “Arabs Got Talent” TV show in Beirut last month, five young musicians in checkered black-and-white scarves brought the house down with a traditional Arabic song that left the judges weeping and earned a ticket straight to the finals.

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How to Send Your Jewish Kid to College — Without Stressing Out

Sat, 01/31/2015 - 06:00

Sending a kid off to college is never easy. But are these are particularly trying times? Gordon Haber spoke to Jewish parents with college-age children to get some insight into their concerns.

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Can Digital Badges Save Hebrew School?

Sat, 01/31/2015 - 06:00

Community schools struggle to show their unique advantages.Can badges help? How a handful of innovators are trying to ‘gamify’ Jewish education.

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Science for Seminaries

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 18:15

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is offering two-year grants to ten seminaries that incorporate more science into the teaching of theology and religious studies. The effort raises debate about the age-old tension between science and religion, but the purpose of the project is to educate more effective ministers and religious thinkers.

The post Science for Seminaries appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Rabbi Jonah Pesner on the Rachel Maddow Show

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 16:14

You may not have seen it last night, but Rachel Maddow interviewed Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the RAC’s new director. You can watch the entire clip below, but essentially, Rabbi Pesner was responding to political leaders accepting support and funding from a hate group in making an important trip to Israel.

Watch the clip here: