Reform Jewish Voice of New York State is excited to announce our first annual Advocacy Month! In previous years, we have provided resources and asked congregations to set aside a Shabbat service in the fall to discuss a specific public policy initiative with their congregants. To provide more flexibility for congregations and rabbis who have busy schedules, RJV has turned our Advocacy Shabbat into Advocacy Month. During the month of Cheshvan (October 17-November 14), RJV is asking congregations to dedicate one Shabbat service, one adult education program, or one religious school period to learning what our tradition teaches about fair and living wages.

Speak Up New York! Earlier this year, the New York State legislature began to consider a raise in the state minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour, but the attempt stalled and 1 million New Yorkers earning a living at minimum wage jobs were left to barely scrape by. Senate opposition remains strong to this plan even though it has been approved by the Assembly. Gov. Cuomo has publicly stated his support for an increase in the minimum wage, but he refuses to put his political power behind the measure to ensure its passage. While the Senate Republicans refer to the measure as a “job killer,” the Greater NY Chamber of Commerce, Costco and over 180 business groups that make up Business for a Fair Minimum Wage have endorsed the wage hike. A recent Siena poll also indicates that 79% of New Yorkers support raising the minimum wage.

Our tradition recognizes that while we cannot absolve society of all poverty, we must work to alleviate it as best we can. We have an obligation not only to feed the hungry, but to spur citizens towards self-sufficiency, which is achievable through ensuring livable wages for workers. RJV encouraged the New York State legislature at our annual Advocacy Day to address state assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s attempts to raise New York’s minimum wage.

Our Advocacy Month Guide is forthcoming and will include suggestions for speakers, Jewish text resources, ideas for programming in religious school and tips for being a persuasive and successful advocate.  Educating ourselves and our congregations is just the first step. To make a change, we must take action. RJV is urging all New Yorkers to show Gov. Cuomo and the state legislature why an increase in the state minimum wage is imperative today.