Southern California Newsletter
A note from Rabbi-in-Residence, Aryeh Cohen
The High Holy Days are upon us. The rituals of these days allow us to focus our thoughts on what a community based on repentance, return, and restoration might look like. The practice of return gives us the space to ask very basic questions about transgression, punishment, transformation. In this time we hope that others will forgive our transgressions. We hope to forgive others their transgressions. How do we translate that into the non-intimate sphere of our communal existence? We should be looking at the criminal justice system in general, and the carceral system in particular and asking: are people who transgress being given the opportunity to remake themselves and their lives? Or are they, as Bryan Stevenson has said, being judged forever based on the worst mistake they have ever made?
Bruryah, one of the few named women Sages in the Talmud, taught that people who sin are not sinners—they are not defined by that sin. We must rededicate ourselves to the effort to make our carceral system a system of return and restoration, and not a dead end for people whose worst mistakes define them.
At Bend the Arc we are doing that with our work on criminal justice reform—highlighted in the next section of this newsletter. May you and yours have a joyous, sweet, and just new year.
Aryeh Cohen, Southern California Rabbi-in-Residence
Getting out the Vote in Southern California
We’re working on all levels of our democracy this election year to bring our Jewish progressive values into the political process:
We’ll distribute our progressive Jewish voter guide, which gives position and analysis on all 17 statewide ballot measures in California, right before the High Holidays. Learn all about it here.
We are knocking on doors and calling voters with partner organizations to support two ballot measures in particular: Proposition 57 - the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act; and Proposition 55 - the California Children’s Education and Health Care Protection Act. Join us and learn more here.
- We have endorsed two LA City measures to fight homelessness in Los Angeles City with Proposition HHH and Proposition JJJ. We’re working to combat homelessness and promote equitable and affordable housing for all Angelenos. To learn more about this work and local measures, email our Regional Organizer, Anjuli, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- We have four house parties this Election season all over Los Angeles to engage new and existing members of our community. This is an awesome opportunity to bring our progressive, Jewish values into this election on all levels. Join us for a shabbat or debate watch party. Have time to help us recruit for these events? We'll be making calls together too.
SB1143 - Reforming Juvenile Room Confinement
One of the priorities of our Campaigns Committee this year is Senate Bill 1143, proposed by Mark Leno, which will end abusive room confinement for youth in state juvenile facilities. Bend the Arc has been centrally involved in the effort to pass this bill (and previous iterations of it which failed), and we are a co-sponsor of the current legislation. The bill would limit any room confinement to four hours—anything beyond that would require a plan and special permission.
This bill follows on the heels of the city and county of Los Angeles similarly banning youth solitary confinement (where we stood up to testify!), and President Obama’s executive order banning youth solitary in the federal system. Bend the Arc SoCal leaders gathered hundreds of individual letters of support and nine organizational letters, and Rabbi Cohen and three Bend the Arc leaders were part of a delegation that met with State Senator Eric Holden’s office to advocate for passage of the bill (pictured at right.) We also joined a call with the Governor’s office to ask for his signature on the bill.
SB 1143 passed the Assembly and the Senate and is currently on the Governor’s desk - the furthest this bill has gotten in recent history! The bill was endorsed by the LA Times, and even the Chief Probation Officers of California (the bill’s prime opponents in previous years) have signed on to this version. We are hopeful that the governor will sign the bill and, as the LA Times wrote, initiate “an era of more humane, and more effective treatment of troubled juveniles." Sign our partner CREDO’s petition to ask the Governor to make the bill law.
Save the Date: Festival of Rights and Jeremiah Graduation
Please save the date for Bend the Arc Southern California’s annual Festival of Rights, Tuesday, December 13, 2016. We will celebrate the season and our graduating Jeremiah fellowship cohort. More details to come but please mark your calendars! This is an event you won’t want to miss.
AB 1066 - A Victory for Farmworkers' Rights
VICTORY: The Governor signed AB 1066, a bill that will afford agricultural workers the same overtime protections as other workers already enjoy. We have been working in coalition with United Farm Workers and other organizations in the Los Angeles area to make this happen. SoCal leaders made phone calls to Assemblyman Richard Bloom, and we were part of a delegation which visited Bloom’s office in Santa Monica in an ultimately successful attempt to convince him to vote for the bill, and erase one of the last remaining vestiges of Jim Crow. Check out Rabbi Cohen's op-ed in the Jewish Journal.
Thank you for all you do,
Anjuli Kronheim Katz, Regional Organizer
Aryeh Cohen, Rabbi-in-Residence
Joellyn Wilken Weingourt, Senior Development Officer
P.S. - Check out Bend the Arc Jewish Action, the political advocacy arm of Bend the Arc, to learn more about national election campaigns: http://www.jewishaction.us/