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Friday, September 16, 2011

Lobbying in Washington, D.C.

Friends and family - I am writing once again about an issue that is of vital importance to each of us: Global Hunger. When I have discussed this issue with some, I often hear the following: "We have our own problems, our own hungry." I am not denying that. It is awfully true that there are many, many Americans who live in poverty. We need to do everything we can as humans to help them out. But, recognizing that the United States has limited funds - especially in our current financial situation - we CANNOT ignore the rest of the world. If you are wondering why it is our responsibility to help, that's simple. As the richest (or one of at least) the nation in the world, we are charged with helping out those who are in need, here on our own soil, and everywhere.

Last night, I attended a Cincinnati Reds game. It also happened to be "Hispanic Heritage Night." What this meant was that there were Spanish songs played in the stadium and some of the announcements were made in Spanish. Why am I telling you this? Well, there was a man a few rows in front of me that brought several American flags to the game, and each time the Hispanic announcer would speak or when a song was played in Spanish, the man would stand up, raise his American flag and either scream "God Bless America" or some derogatory comment about the cultures we were celebrating. One of his comments, "Go back across the border" really upset me. After all, the United States is a melting pot. EVERY person that lives in this country (with the exception of Native Americans of course) came from a different country.

I have also heard the following from people - "When my ancestors came to America, we were forced to learn the language and get jobs to survive." That is true, when my family came to this country, they had to learn English to survive. But, the America today is VERY different from the America back then. It is important that we recognize that those who come to the United States are looking for better lives - the same reasons our ancestors came here. If you want to make a difference, speak to those we have elected to make laws!

Last weekend, I traveled with AJWS to Washington, DC to lobby both of the Ohio Senators not to cut the food aid that the US supplies to those in the world who are starving. Tens of thousands of people who live in Northeast Africa, in the Horn of Africa, have already died. As a Jewish person, as an American, and as a human, I realize that I am charged/challenged by God to help those in need. It is not just about money. If that man I observed last night took some time to actually learn about what is going on in the world, he would (I hope) recognize how lucky we are to live in the United States. But, it is more than just luck. We have a responsibility to all humans, not just Americans.

On November 4-5, I will be hosting a "Global Hunger Shabbat" dinner at my home. During this dinner, I hope to share stories of my experiences in Senegal as well as my trip to Washington. I hope to be able to hear thoughts and stories of those who will be in attendance. The most important thing we can do is simple - DO NOT DO NOTHING, DO SOMETHING. Learn, read, seek out information. Polls show that most Americans believe the US spends 25% of its budget on foreign aid. These same Americans want to lower this number to 10%. TRUTH - The United States spends less than 1% of its budget on foreign aid. Can you imagine how much of a difference the United States would make if we spent 10% of our budget on foreign aid?

I am not asking or even suggesting that the US should increase its foreign aid to 10%. What I am asking is that a)the US does not cut any of its aid and b)when the 2012 Farm Bill comes up, that Congress and the Senate work together to reform the current ways we give aid. For example, rather than paying an American company/farmer to grow extra food to be sent as aid, let's invest the money in foreign countries and allow them to become more self sufficient. We would save tremendous amount of money - we would not have to pay the shipping costs to get the aid from us to them. This is only one way.

Here it is - do something, get out there and learn. If you want to learn more about AJWS or about the Global Hunger Shabbat, please check out one of these sites:
http://www.ajws.org
http://ajws.org/hunger/ghs/

Also, to read about the trip to Washington, DC:
http://ajws.org/who_we_are/news/archives/press_releases/ajws_brings_jewish_communal.html

Until next time...
Erin

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