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Fain Social Justice Award

 

On behalf of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism (CSA), it is our pleasure to inform you that Beth Hillel Temple has won a 2019 Irving J. Fain Social Justice Award for your outstanding initiative, Welcome the Stranger Campaign.

 

As you know, the work of tikkun olam is our sacred mandate, and that work merits recognition and appreciation. The Fain Awards will be presented at the URJ Biennial in Chicago, IL, December 11-15, 2019. It is our hope that representatives from your congregation will attend the Biennial and receive the award certificate during the RAC Leadership Reception on Thursday, December 12 at 5:00pm. As we shine a spotlight on your program at our Movement’s largest gathering, we hope it will serve as an inspiration to the greater Reform Jewish community, encouraging others to undertake similar inspiring initiatives. For more information and to register, please visit www.urj.org/biennial.

 

We are also excited to let you know that with your Fain Award, you will receive a poster to be displayed at the Biennial, which you will have the opportunity to discuss with other Biennial attendees during a networking session. Daphne Macy (DMacy@URJ.org), Communications Manager, Strengthening Congregations will be in touch within the next few weeks with more details and to gather details from you. Please note that if you see information about applying for a congregational poster at the Biennial, you should ignore it. Fain Award winners automatically receive a poster, and since each congregation is eligible for one poster, your Fain program will be representing your congregation. We are very excited about the opportunity to share your innovative program with the rest of the Reform Movement!

Community and Social Action Updates

A Community Conversation with Congressman Bryan Steil

On Sept. 3, Beth Hillel had the privilege of hosting Rep. Bryan Steil (R-WI District 1) as the Congressman’s office contacted the Milwaukee Jewish Federation asking for an opportunity to share insights from his recent trip to Israel with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Rabbi Feingold was contacted about hosting Rep. Steil, and set up the program with his congressional office. It was defined as a “Community Conversation,” and the opportunity to discuss any issue of concern to constituents was offered.

Congressman Steil opened the meeting by talking about his recent visit to Israel and the West Bank with approximately 70 other members of Congress. The group met with President Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders and viewed Israeli security installations among other stops. He acknowledged the importance of the relationship between the United States and Israel and the on-going perilous security situation which Israel faces. He voiced firm support for the United States’ support of Israel. The congressional group also traveled to Ramallah where they met with leaders of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Rep. Steil reported that a key concern voiced by the PLO leaders was the deduction from the aid budget paid by Israel to the PLO for payments made by the PLO to families of persons convicted of terrorism.

He also discussed the role he has chosen for himself in Congress, namely to pursue bipartisanship and pursue legislation which he thinks can actually get passed.

In this vein, he reported on the human trafficking bill he has introduced with bi-partisan support of the entire Wisconsin delegation. The stated purpose of the bill is to hold countries accountable for the funding of human trafficking through illegal activities. A comment was raised that while the bill is of value, it does not go far enough. T-visas, may be available to certain victims of a severe human trafficking, allowing them to remain in the United States for up to 4 years if they have assisted law enforcement in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking. However undocumented persons are often afraid to apply for such visas, fearing that by revealing their undocumented status, they will be deported. Rep. Steil stated he was unfamiliar with the T-visas but would look into this issue.

Rabbi Feingold shared with Rep. Steil a letter which she and over 1500 other rabbis and cantors have signed calling on elected officials to protect the fundamental right to seek asylum in the United States.

Rep. Steil took more questions. The next topic raised was whether Rep. Steil is willing to denounce the racist, anti-Semitic incendiary rhetoric of President Trump. Steil stated that was “not his style”. When continued questions pointed to the urgency of this issue, he did acknowledge the growth of hate as “real”.

Another issue raised, regarded the effect of the tax reform legislation passed last year on fundraising by nonprofit organizations. Concern was raised that charitable donations are no longer tax-deductible for middle income families.

Two other pieces of legislation raised for Rep. Steil’s consideration were the No Hate Act, to promote more accurate data collection and assist victims of hate crimes, and raising the caps on refugee resettlement which has been severely restricted under the Trump administration. He accepted background information on each and promised to review the proposals.

Rep. Steil also told us about a staff member of his who has been effective in facilitating asylum applications. We brought to his attention the particular situation of a congregation member waiting for a ruling on his asylum application whose permission to work and drive has expired. He has no way to support himself as he awaits a ruling on his application. Rep. Steil promised to have his staff member look at the case.

In all, the meeting was a forthright, respectful conversation between the approximately 25 members of the congregation present and Rep. Steil. We heartily thanked him for his visit. Now we need to keep our dialogue with him going.

Tue, October 22 2019 23 Tishrei 5780