Hello from Washington DC!
We just came back from an exciting day on the Hill, where Mitzvah Corps DC participants visited more than 50 congressional offices. They advocated for congressional action on gun violence, climate change, LGBTQA justice, the minimum wage, and reproductive rights, making their voices heard on the issues that matter to them most. Below are excerpts from two participants’ prepared remarks. I’m sure they’ll convince you as much as they did the representatives!
Climate change is a real and ever present problem in the United States, but we can also see climate change affecting the lives of millions outside the U.S. The changing environment is already affecting farmlands across Africa, causing subsistence farmers to be unable to provide for their families and their communities. The increasing temperatures caused by climate change could significantly raise sea levels around the globe, causing floods that could displace millions of people. The people of developing countries and nations are most likely to be affected because people who live in poorer areas in coastal zones and floodplains are unable to relocate because of flooding…One international report estimates that climate change causes an average of 400,000 deaths per year, 83% of which are in developing countries. Even though the U.S. can better counteract the negative effects of climate change, the impact of environmental inequalities on U.S. communities and the damage caused by storms like Superstorm Sandy show that the U.S. is not immune to those effects. And even though the U.S. is already affected by climate change, we are doing very little to prevent it. We are 5% of the world’s population, but we produce 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. We are here to urge the representative to support the Green Climate Fund to aid developing countries in their adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. –Grace Altman, IL
In Reform Judaism, we are commanded to treat others fairly. In fact, we are taught to carry the sense of fairness in all situations, including when dealing with our criminal justice systems. We are taught to partake in impartial practices while trying, punishing, and detaining possible convicts. Although we like to think the American judiciary system upholds these values, while visiting the Shaw neighborhood of DC, we were disturbed to learn about the use of undercover cops and tactics similar to Stop and Frisk. These tactics are employed out of unjust suspicion. In short, these practices conflict with Reform Jewish values. As Jews, and more importantly as human beings, we are commanded to seek and pursue justice. It is important to remember that while pursuing justice, we must be as fair as possible. In the Talmud we are told that “there is none on earth so righteous as to only do good and never sin.” While trying others, it is crucial to remember that nobody is faultless and that we all deserve a second change when we make a mistake. –Samantha Goldenson, MA, and Sarah Schefter, KS