(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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