Hold the date for May 18 http://ow.ly/uhEIe
I have just returned from 2 1/2 days in Washington D.C. I was attending the annual AIPAC Policy conference along with 15,000 others who love Israel. AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. This important organization builds bridges and support for the State of Israel with the United States. AIPAC educates Congress and our elected leaders and works to strengthen the relationship between Israel and the U.S. AIPAC works effectively on college campuses with campus student leaders to combat the Anti-Israel fervor and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement aimed at Israel. They educate and reach African American leaders, Hispanic leaders and Christian leaders and educate them about the strategic importance of Israel and a side of the story that they may not have heard before. As we heard from the President of the Washington local SEIU 87, a dynamic Latina, named Olga Miranda said, “I never knew Israel’s story until AIPAC introduced me to it. I merely repeated what I heard on the news. Today I know there are two sides to every story. I am pro-Israel and I am the face of AIPAC.”
While I have attended local AIPAC events I had never been to the annual policy conference. We heard from an array of speakers including Hon Isaac Herzog, the head of Israel’s Labor Party, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Charles Schumer, and Sen. Robert Menendez, head of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry and Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. It was amazing to me in a town so divided by partisanship to see the House Majority whip Rep Eric Cantor (R) stand side by side with the House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D) and together talk about their common and strong support of the Israel -U.S. relationship. Hoyer couldn’t resist chiding the Jewish Cantor that he had been to Israel more times!
One of the most powerful presentations came from Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Pnina Tamano-Shata (Yesh Atid) the first Ethiopian Member Knesset. Side by side they each recounted a similar story of being refugees: one from Cuba and one from Ethiopia and their journeys to become legislators and all they had in common. The common values of freedom and democracy and opportunity of Israel and the United States were never more evident.
All of this and many workshops on everything from the peace process, the war in Syria, Israel’s technology revolution, Iran, fighting Boycotts of Israel, the rise of Anti-Semitism in Europe, climate change and water issues in the US and Israel and so much more; workshops for Christians, students, Latinos, LGBT receptions and how to lobby Congress. Tuesday of the conference is devoted to lobbying your Congress person and Senators for Israel.
I also learned despite some critics that AIPAC is real bi-partisan. There has been a lot of critique on the left that AIPAC became a Republican stronghold. I didn’t get that. It was clear they were committed to bi-partisanship both in representing Israel’s political spectrum and the here in the U.S. Yes there are partisan Jews on both sides of the aisle. But as someone who is center left on Israel, meaning I believe strongly in states for two people, a Jewish democratic Israel side by side with a Democratic Palestine both who can live in peace and security, I did not feel out of place at all. Other progressives were there and I believe it is important to gather there so that the entire spectrum on Israel is represented and is part of the solution for a healthy Israel -U.S. relationship!
I learned a lot in a short period of time. I hope next year some of you will join me for AIPAC Policy Conference 2015. It is March 1-3, 2015. Registration is already open. If you love Israel and you want the US and Israel to remain strong partners for peace, freedom, trade, innovation, democracy, and security then you want to be a part of AIPAC. Join me there. I have already registered. How about you? If you want to register or view the videos from the conference here is the link: www.aipac.org
This is a post from the World Union of Progressive Judaism about the situation in Ukraine. This morning another synagogue was vandalized. It seems history is repeating itself. Please read below and consider helping.
Dear World Union Family:
This morning, as our community members arrived at the synagogue center in Simferopol, they discovered anti semitic slogans stating “Death to the Jews” painted all over the doors of the synagogue, as well as damage to windows and other parts of the building.
As the unrest in Ukraine unfolds, concerns for the safety and well being of our communities in the Ukraine is growing steadily, especially in the rural areas and Crimea.
As seen on the news, the Crimean peninsula is considered of strategic importance to Russia, and at the time of this newsflash it seems that Russian troops have occupied the main airports and centers of power in the capital and surroundings. This violent atmosphere has quickly given rise to harassment and attacks on our communities.
Rabbi Michael Kapustin says:” The city is occupied by Russians. Apparently Russians intend to take over the Crimea and make it a part of Russia. If this were the case I would leave the country. In this case I will leave this country since I want to live in democratic Ukraine. In the meanwhile, in spite of all our hesitation,s my family has decided to stay. If anyone comes tonight I will be in the synagogue to light the candles. Wider Shabbat services will not take place due to security reasons.
According to Anatoly Gendin, chair of the community, “Clearly, it was important for the anti-Semites to commit this crime. Since the crisis began prices went up by 30%, pensions aren’t being paid. As usual, Jews are blamed reason of these disasters and Jews are held responsible. I am afraid to think how this will progress. ”
As the situation is unsafe, the community has instructed all members to stay indoors and stock up on food and supplies.
The WUPJ has initiated an emergency campaign to support our communities through this crisis, and hope to provide in hope to provide urgently needed security measures, supplies and equipment to the communities. If you are interested in joining this effort please click here http://www.wupj.org/Contribute/Giving.asp
We hope and pray that quiet will return soon to the streets of Ukraine, and as Shabbat settles in on the streets.
Ose Shalom Bimromov – May the One who makes peace in the heavens, help bring peace here on earth, for all the Household of Israel and for all God’s creations.
Mike Grabiner, Chairman of World Union for Progressive Judaism
Anne Molloy, Chair of WUPJ FSU Committee
Alex Kagan, Director of WUPJ FSU Program
UKRAINE EMERGENCY RESPONSE FEBRUARY 28, 2014
TO MAKE A CONTRIBUTION, PLEASE GO TO:
IF USING A CREDIT CARD, in box that says, “ENTER DESCRIPTION” Please indicate Ukraine APPEAL
Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas Ban on Gay Marriage |News | Towleroad http://ow.ly/u2aQC
Mr. and Mrs. Mandel felt they were becoming forgetful and signed up for a class that guaranteed to help improve memory. When they’d completed the course they raved to all of their friends and neighbors about how wonderful it was and how many things they’d learned.
Several months later as Mr. Mandel tackled some yard work a neighbor approached and asked, “Hey, who was the instructor who taught the memory course you took?”
“I need to think about this a minute,” Mr. Mandel said as he tapped his forehead with his finger.
Several minutes passed before Mr. Mandel asked, “What is the name of the flower that smells really good?”
“Lots of flowers smell good,” the neighbor answered.
“Yeah I know, but this one comes in all sorts of colors and has thorny stems.”
“You mean a rose?” the neighbor said.
“Yes!” Mr. Mandel replied and then turned toward his house and shouted, “Hey Rose, honey, what was the name of that teacher we had for that memory class?”
It can be easy to forget and need reminders.
This week we have been given a reminder that the work of equality is not yet over.
Here is our own state of California with achieving marriage equality by the Court last June we assume that the fight for equality is over. And we move on living our lives with relative ease on the freedom front. And we forget how difficult the struggle through the years to have protections in housing and jobs. We forget quickly the days of the Briggs initiative that wanted to remove gay teachers from the classroom.
And then right next door. We and our neighbors in Arizona are jarred from the euphoria of the rolling tide of marriage equality across America, to a new attack on LGBT Americans under the guise of religious freedom. The new bill that passed the Arizona legislature would, like the Citizens United Supreme Court Ruling, give Arizona businesses and corporations, individual rights to discriminate against LGBT people. No need to serve a gay couple in a restaurant Tuscon. No longer does a Sedona hotel have to honor your reservation if you’re a lesbian. No Tucson or Temple store has to have you in their store.
This Senate bill 1062 has been pushed by the very Conservative Center for Arizona Policy.
It seems that in the latest attempt to figure out how to discriminate against gay and lesbian people and those perceived to be gay and lesbian, Arizona legislators forgot the application of the United States Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause. Does the First Amendment that calls for Religious Freedom and Freedom from the government establishing religion trump equality and freedom in the public sphere?
Seems like Mr. Mandel isn’t alone in forgetting.
This Arizona bill is not that much different from those introduced in several other states this week. Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have introduced broader “religious freedom” bills with a unique provision that would also allow people to deny services or employment to LGBT Americans, legal experts say.
We also saw Kansas pass equally heinous legislation pass the Kansas house which was thankfully killed by the Kansas Senate President. The bill, which covered both private businesses and individuals, including government employees, would have barred same-sex couples from suing anyone who denies them food service, hotel rooms, social services, adoption rights, or employment—as long as the person denying the service said he or she had a religious objection to homosexuality. HB 2453, allowed individuals, groups, and private businesses to refuse service to gay couples, fire gay people, and even block entry to buildings to folks based purely on their sexuality, ”a blank check to discriminate.” The legislation was centered specifically around marriage and other forms of unions by same-sex couples, but because it was written to preserve “religious liberty,” all individual employees can use their own religion to justify discrimination — including cops, teachers, nurses, pharmacists, hotel owners, and doctors alike. Gay people could be banished from public life, one by one, employee by employee and business by business. No gay people in the park, no gay people in the grocery store, no gay people in hospitals or schools.
People who attempted, as they inevitably would, to challenge anti-gay discrimination would get stuck paying the lawyer fees for their opponents. The legislation would bring a new era of segregation in Kansas. ”If the bill passes,” Lisbeth Hunter wrote for Ryot, ”gay people won’t be able to feel safe anywhere.” As of this week, the legislation was dead in the Senate. But the Kansas bill is not a one-state try. Republicans in Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee recently introduced provisions that mimic the Kansas legislation.
Even as the Oregon State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum ( a member of Reform Congregation Beth Israel in Portland) refused to defend the state in upholding the marriage ban, equality for lgbt people take a few steps forward, only to find others that want to hold us back.
Just because we are comfortable here in California we cannot forget that freedom is not won by sitting on our laurels.
And not just in our country but the hate and discrimination that is being fomented in Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, the Congo and other countries around the world-pit those in the former Soviet sphere against the West—in a twisted replay of the Cold War with LGBT rights being one of the defining issues. Do not think for one moment that Mr. Putin’s calculations are only based on a hatred of LGBT people-it is his way to distinguish himself from the policies of the American and European spheres of power.
So what can we do? We who sit here in the comfort of California? With laws to protect us in jobs and housing. With the freedom to marry and adopt children. To have our gay kids protected in school from bullying and harassment- How blessed we are.
But we dare not be silent.
So get out your phones… The Governor of Arizona-Jan Brewer’s office number is (602) 542-4331. I want you to take out your phone right now. (520) 628-6580
Or send an email right now to firstname.lastname@example.org – Dear Gov. Brewer.
I am writing to you to protest SB1062 that would discriminiate against LGBT people under the so-called “freedom of religion”. But discrimination in the public sphere is what this bill will promote.
I urge you to veto this heinous act. This isn’t religious freedom but old fashioned hate hiding behind government permission. Please veto SB 1062.
This week’s Torah portion Vayakhel- Moses gathers all the people of Israel together. To execute the plans for the building of the Tabernacle. He does this after last week’s fiasco—when the people built an idol, the golden calf as a way to see God in their midst once Moses went up to Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. But without visible proof the people afraid, already forgot the Ten Commandments and specifically the commandment that said-Make no graven images!
And out of the shattering of the first set of Commandment, Moses and God realize that there must be a sign in their midst so that the People of Israel don’t forget.
And so with the Help of Bezalel and Ohaliab the people come together to build the Mishkan, the place where God would dwell among them.
God still dwells among us today. In our acts of social justice, in the hearts of our neighbors. As Rabbi Yossi teaches in Pirke Avot: Let you neighbor’s property be as dear to you as your own. And as the Mishnah further teaches us: May your neighbor’s honor be as dear to you as your own.
On this Shabbat –let us act on behalf of not only ourselves-but our neighbors. Act for equality and justice and freedom wherever our neighbor dwells.