JCRC Update | September 23, 2016

Tackling Hunger

This past week I had the distinct honor of attending a hunger issue community forum conducted by Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles. Many things about this meeting were impressive.

The program was held at the Dare to Care food bank, on the warehouse floor – a very inspiring location for a meeting about hunger issues. Hearing from Dare to Care leadership about what they do, who they target, and the needs of the community was also inspiring. But what was most impressive was the variety of community leaders interesting in doing things about hunger in our area.

There were representatives from senators’ offices, Congressman John Yarmuth’s office, Mayor Greg Fischer’s office and other state agencies dedicated to tackling hunger. There were also representatives of many different regional non-profits talking about what they do.

There were members of the farming and livestock community talking about what is possible on their end to contribute. It will take a well-coordinated effort on all of our parts in order to have a measurable effect on hunger, and this was a good start. I hope and feel confident that Commissioner Quarles and community leaders will work together on this.

You can help by joining our efforts in the Hunger Walk this Sunday, September 25. We will walk this year under the Jewish Louisville banner, visit www.thehungerwalk.org to register to walk and for more information. Proceeds go to Dare to Care, the leading Food Bank in the area, as well as the JFCS Food Pantry. If you don’t want to walk, no problem, please consider making a donation. One in six people in Kentucky (including one in five children) are food insecure.

Religious pluralism in Israel

This week Louisville was visited by Rabbi Uri Regev, founder of many organizations in Israel that are dedicated to breaking the monopoly that the Ultra-Orthodox have on certain aspects of civil law in the State of Israel.

It was inspiring to hear him talk about the issue and to also hear his optimism that things are beginning to change on this front. Jewish organizations in both the U.S. and Israel are starting to make their voices heard on this.

This is a very big issue for both the future of Israel and the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. Currently, if Jews want to get married in Israel, they must do so under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate. If they decide they don’t want to have a strictly orthodox wedding, many Israelis get married in Cyprus (weddings performed outside Israel are recognized civilly by the State). However, a current trend is for Israelis not to get married at all – a very disturbing trend for the future of Israel.

The Chief Rabbinate also decides who is a Jew. Those that they deem not halakhically Jewish (according to Jewish law, verifiably born to a Jewish mother) cannot marry. In Israel this is a huge problem, as many immigrants from the former Soviet Union either have a non-Jewish mother or cannot prove their ancestry. There are native Israelis, whose parents came from Russia, who served in the Army, who pay taxes in Israel, who cannot marry the ones they love because of this.

American Jews are increasingly alienated by this situation as well, as many of us are from mixed marriages or converted with a Rabbi who was not approved by the Chief Rabbinate (even some Orthodox Rabbis are not recognized as providing legitimate conversions!).

As the majority of American Jews identify as Conservative or Reform, the longer the status quo perpetuates, the greater the wedge between Israel and American Jewry. As Zionists, this should worry us and we must make every effort to speak up on this.

Jewish Federations of North America is takin a leading role here, as is the American Jewish Committee. The louder our voices the greater the chance for real change.

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