Life, Learning & amp; Legislation event is scheduled

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Congregation Shaare Emeth and the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), St. Louis Section are presenting their second Life, Learning & Legislation on Jan. 12 and 13 at Shaare Emeth. More than 170 people attended the event when it was held for the first time last year. Committee members Jill Esrock, Barbara Feldacker, Farilyn Hale, Marlene Hammerman, Lynn Lyss, Jill Schupp and Nancy Weigley waited until after the November elections to select the topics for the event.

“There are so many issues on the ballot which effect us as women and as Jews,” NCJW executive director Ellen Alper said.

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The committee brought back relevant topics from last year’s event as well as some of the significant issues facing the next legislative session. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the issues from speakers who are experts in their fields. Every attendee will be provided with a personalized packet of information which includes the name and contact information for their local, state and national representatives. The packet will also include Jewish text that addresses the different issues.

“The greatest compliment we received about last year’s program is the attendees felt their time was well spent,” said Jill Schupp, co-chair of the Shaare Emeth Effort to Develop Social Justice (SEEDS). “It was well organized and laid out. We chose to hold the program on Martin Luther King weekend by design in recognition of his commitment to social justice.”

The program kicks off with a free event on Friday evening at 8 p.m. featuring keynote speaker Jonathan Miller, the Jewish state treasurer of Kentucky. He will share his thoughts on the role of religion and moral values in politics and ways for all faiths to come together to “build a stronger democracy.”

The main event on Saturday includes more than a dozen speakers on a variety of topics. Participants are able to choose any three information sessions to attend on the day of the program. The lunch catered by Great Harvest will feature a panel discussion with Sen. Jeff Smith (District 4) and Representatives Rachel Storch (District 64) and Jake Zimmerman (District 83). State public affairs chair for the NCJW Marlene Hammerman will be the moderator.

“This is a great way to see, meet and hear from the legislators in person about their priorities for the upcoming legislative session,” Hammerman said. “Also, it is especially unusual that all three legislators are Jewish.”

The topics for the day cover a wide range of issues. Jewish Federation executive vice president Barry Rosenberg will look at Israel from its perception in the news to the challenges and opportunities for the future. The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures chairman Donn Rubin will look at the road ahead after the passage of Amendment 2 — the stem cell research and cures initiative. Washington University law professor Stephen Legomsky is an international expert in immigration law. He will help participants examine immigration issues from several different perspectives. Washington University Director of the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic Maxine I. Lipeles teaches environmental law courses. She will focus on the importance of the environment starting from local involvement to global issues. Special guest Nancy Kipnis Ratzan is the national vice president of NCJW and the chair of Benchmark: the NCJW campaign to save Roe. She was scheduled to speak at last year’s event but had to decline due to a death in her family. Her focus will be on protecting access to contraceptives and sex education.

Additional speakers will be highlighting issues including: Darfur, Torah study, the educational achievement gap, Medicaid, minimum wage, domestic violence and the issues surrounding the taxpayers’ bill of rights.

While there is no question people can access a lot of information on current issues through the media there is also a great importance to attending an event like this as part of the Jewish community, said Hammerman.

“We look at things of national importance like the State of Israel, of state importance like Medicaid issues and from a international/global importance like the environment,” Hammerman said. “It is also about seeing these issues from a Jewish perspective, through a Jewish lens. How do these issues we hear about and read about effect us as citizens of the United States and as members of the Jewish community.”

The cost for the event is $10 for participants registering by Jan. 9 or $15 at the door. Lunch is included. For more information contact Susan Murray at 314-569-0010. High school students interested in volunteering at the event should also call this number.