Programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) will run out of money, leaving 9 million women and children without nutrition assistance. WIC office in Kings County, Cali.
— by Benjamin Suarato
Unable to agree on a new appropriations bill, Congress has instead opted for a government shutdown, "which its impact will be felt most by the vulnerable among us," according to the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
"This government shutdown is a product of a dysfunctional Congress," said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow.
And once again, our most vulnerable must suffer. Because of this dysfunction, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) will run out of money, leaving 9 million women and children without nutrition assistance. Head Start, which creates opportunity for children, would also suffer an immediate reduction. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees in each of our communities, who will still be expected to meet their financial obligations even as we, as a nation, neglect ours. It is a callous abdication of our political leaders' responsibility, and an insult to our democratic system, to ask those with the least to suffer from an inability to compromise.
The new rule sets separate standards for emissions from coal plants and natural gas plants. Coal plant in Rochester, Minn.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) applauded yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency's release on Friday, of a revised standard limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.
"Carbon dioxide emissions are the leading cause of climate change, which is one of the great moral challenges of our time," said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. "This proposal takes an important step towards addressing the effects that our electricity generation can have on the Earth and human health."
COEJL and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism collected hundreds of signatures from the Jewish community in favor of the original rule proposed last year. The new rule responds to concerns raised in public comments to the prior proposal, by setting separate standards for emissions from coal plants and natural gas plants, and providing flexibility for industry while achieving similar outcomes.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs asked President Barak Obama to use his authority to undo the damage caused by Federal appeals court ruling, declaring unconstitutional a 2002 U.S. law permitting American citizens born in Jerusalem to list "Israel" on their passports. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that the 2002 law wrongfully intruded upon a President's sole power to recognize foreign governments. In 2012, the JCPA joined an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in defense of the law. JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow said:
The Court's disappointing opinion allows the State department to continue the unfair policy, treating those born in Jerusalem differently than all other foreign cities in which passports are issued. We call on the Administration to right this wrong, and allow Jerusalem-born applicants who desire so to list Israel on their passports.
In response to Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement, that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have the basis to resume peace talks, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We welcome this apparent progress toward peace, and commend Secretary of State Kerry for his leadership and effort and pledge our support for such efforts as they move forward. We pray that this is the beginning of a process that will lead to a lasting agreement that will bring true peace and stability for a region that has known conflict for thousands of years. We call on both the Israelis and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table with a true willingness to work for peace and we pray that the vision of the prophets will soon be fulfilled.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) today reaffirmed its support for U.S.-led efforts to restart direct negotiations between Israel and Palestinians. The call came in response to issuance of new European Union (E.U.) guidelines restricting its economic engagement and other activities with Israeli entities beyond the so-called "Green Line" (pre-1967 armistice lines). The guidelines do not affect economic activities of individual E.U. member countries. The JCPA described this action as "one-sided pressure."
"A final and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the two parties. Permanent borders must be mutually agreed upon, not imposed by outside parties like the European Union," said JCPA Chair Larry Gold.
— by Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Yesterday's Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 were met with celebration by many who have supported the right of people of the same sex to marry. Others have felt that such rights should not be afforded because of earnestly held religious beliefs. There are differing opinions as to how Jews should respond to this issue, although there is consensus that Judaism teaches respect for others and that we abhor discrimination against individuals.
Yesterday in Georgetown, President Barack Obama outlined his vision for American action on climate change. His vision includes cutting carbon pollution, preparing the United States for the impact of climate change, and having the United States lead the global efforts to address it.
Obama emphasized the need for action:
As a president, as a father and as an American, I'm here to say, we need to act. I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing. And that's why today I'm announcing a new national climate action plan, and I'm here to enlist your generation's help in keeping the United States of America a leader, a global leader in the fight against climate change.
The changes President Obama spoke about have strong backing from Americans, and from American Jews. A recent poll released by the Georgetown Climate Center showed that 87% of Americans support some EPA action on the issue, including 78 percent of Republicans and 94% of Democrats. In addition, a poll done by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that nearly 70% of American Jews are supportive of tougher laws and regulations to protect the environment.
Full remarks and reactions from the JCPA, COEJL and Fox News after the jump.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs welcomed the House of Representatives' rejection of the proposed Farm Bill. The bill, which included a $21 billion cut to SNAP (formerly food stamps) failed by a vote of 195-234.
"Now is time to press the restart button," said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. "The House of Representatives defeated a Farm Bill that would have eliminated food assistance for 2 million individuals, many of whom are in working families with children or seniors. Now Congress has the opportunity to debate a serious food policy that aims to feed all Americans, not take food from the hungry.
(Those interested in learning the views of Pope Francis should read the book he published. Sobre el cielo y la tierra (On Heaven and Earth) is an interfaith dialogue in Spanish between Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary on family, faith and the role of the religion in the XXI century. About the heaven and earth is the result of a series of deep conversations alternately held at the headquarters of the Episcopate and in the Jewish B'nai Tikvah. In his meetings transited the most varied theological and worldly. God, fundamentalism, atheists, death, the Holocaust, homosexuality, capitalism, are just a handful of topics that give their opinions the new leader of the Catholic Church and the prestigious Rabbi Skorka.
- promoted by Publisher)
— by Ronald S. Lauder
Pope Francis is no stranger to us. In recent years he attended many inter-faith events co-organized by the WJC and our regional affiliate, the Latin American Jewish Congress. I personally met with him in Buenos Aires in June 2008. He always had an open ear for our concerns. By choosing such an experienced man, someone who is known for his open-mindedness, the cardinals have sent an important signal to the world. I am sure that Pope Francis will continue to be a man of dialogue, a man who is able to build bridges with other faiths.
During the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, Catholic-Jewish relations reached unprecedented levels. This was due to the determination of the pope to continue the work of his predecessor, John Paul II. We are convinced that new pontiff will continue on this path, that he will speak out against all forms of Antisemitism both within and without the Catholic Church, that he will take action against clerics who deny or belittle the Holocaust, and that he will strengthen the Vatican's relationship with Israel.
The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life welcomed President Obama's affirmation of his commitment to renewable energy and reducing our nation's contribution to climate change, announced in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
"We praise President Obama for proposing the Energy Security Trust and prioritizing our nation's response to the threat of global climate change," said JCPA President and COEJL Co-Chair Rabbi Steve Gutow.
The President has highlighted his understanding of the moral urgency of reducing our contribution to the climate crisis. We hope to see regulations that enable us to achieve our national goal of a 17% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020.
I'm putting forward a specific set of proposals based on the work of Joe [Biden]'s task force. And in the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try.
And I'm going to do my part. As soon as I'm finished speaking here, I will sit at that desk and I will sign a directive giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence.
We will make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of criminals by strengthening the background check system. We will help schools hire more resource officers if they want them and develop emergency preparedness plans. We will make sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence — even as we acknowledge that someone with a mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator.
Rabbis and cantors in communities across the country representing all four major denominations are committing to living for one week on a food budget of $31.50, the average allotment for individuals on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly SNAP), as part of the 2012 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge, running from the lead-up to the High Holy Days starting September 7 and continuing through Thanksgiving. Participating clergy will take the challenge in order to educate congregations and communities about the realities of hunger and raise a loud collective Jewish voice about this crisis.
"Hunger and food insecurity touch every one of our communities, but it is rarely talked about and frequently misunderstood," said Rabbi Leonard Gordon, co-chair of the Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge representing the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and a member of the JCPA board. "The Food Stamp Challenge is a way for rabbis and cantors to make the invisible daily struggles of congregants and neighbors real while demonstrating the Jewish community's deep commitment to help those in need. This includes education about the programs and assistance available."
Take the food stamp challenge Can you survive on just $5 a day for food?
Take the Greater Philadelphia Food Stamp Challenge, April 23-30, and learn first-hand what life is like for the nearly one in three Philadelphians who rely on food stamps for their sustenance and survival. The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia Hunger Coalition is issuing this challenge to raise awareness about legislation proposed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett that would impose asset testing on food stamp eligibility. Challenge yourself or donate the cost of a week's groceries or a dinner out at a restaurant. For more information or to register, visit The Food Stamp Challenge Website.
Passover and Food Stamps In an op-ed in JTA, Rabbi Gutow and Abby Liebman, President of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, write about the effectiveness of SNAP and its relation to Passover.
The Hunger Shame Noting the over 50 Hunger Seders happening around the country, the Cleveland Jewish News reported that Rep. Marcia Fudge joined the JCPA and MAZON for the National Hunger Seder.
Meeting the Most Basic Need JUF's Amy York said the National Hunger Seder, which included Rep. Jan Schakowsky — who read her own Four Questions — is a chance to remember those who are struggling to put food on the table.
Leaders across the political and religious spectrum celebrate Tu B'shvat by setting goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 14% by 2014.
— by Vicki Stearn
The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) today announced that a diverse group of community leaders has joined its Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign by signing the "Jewish Environment and Energy Imperative" declaration. Rabbis from the Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform and Renewal movements and other communal leaders set the goal of significantly lowering greenhouse-gas emissions, advocating for energy independence and security, and reducing the Jewish community's energy consumption 14% by 2014. The official signing ceremony at Manhattan's 14th Street Y preceded Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish new year for trees.
The declaration states:
The need to transform the world's energy economy while addressing global climate change is not only a religious and moral imperative, it is a strategy for security and survival.
Each of us — as Jews, people of faith and Americans — has a personal responsibility to work toward lowering greenhouse-gas emissions and decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels," said Rabbi Steve Gutow, COEJL co-chair, and president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. "This responsibility starts in our hearts and from there we must care for our homes, places of worship and institutional buildings.
President Obama issued an executive order yesterday, which was released today, extending sanctions against Iran to include the Iranian Central Bank, a move welcomed by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs for its far reaching impact in isolating the Iranian regime. The sanctions were originally passed by Congress as part of the Department of Defense Reauthorization.
"We thank President Obama and Congress for their commitment to using powerful economic tools in the effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran has continually threatened the United States and our allies in the region - especially Israel," said JCPA president Rabbi Steve Gutow. "The escalating intensity of the U.S. sanctions regime, which now includes all who do business with Iran's Central Bank, is a signal of our seriousness in stopping their dangerous nuclear weapons program."
"With these sanctions, the US has drawn a clear line. You cannot continue to benefit from the prosperity and security of access to our markets and friendships while contributing to Iran's ability to undermine our fundamental security interests," said JCPA chair Dr. Conrad Giles. "This Congressional legislation and the White House's prompt implementation of it should send a message to Iran and the rest of the international community that when the President says an Iranian nuclear weapon is 'unacceptable,' he means it."
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