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The Social Action Committee offers a range of opportunities to take action to make our society and our world more just and equitable. Recent areas of focus include gun control, commercial waste, and voting rights.

To learn more about the committee or to join, please contact Beth Gelfond at .

VOTING RIGHTS

On the eve of the Iowa Caucus, January 26, 2016, Stephen Wise Free Synagogue's Social Action Committee heard two experts discuss how changes to the Voting Rights Law of 1965 are expected to have a stifling impact on the 2016 elections.

More than 70 people heard Ari Berman, author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, discuss the history of voting rights in the United states and the new threats, especially for Black citizens due to the 2013 US Supreme Court decision to rescind part of the Voting Rights Act.

DeNora Getachew, campaign manager and legislative counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, discussed advocacy initiatives the audience could support to improve equal access to voting such as modernizing the registration system to enable people to automatically opt in when they get a driver’s license.

GUN SAFETY

DID YOU KNOW?

• According to the Center for Disease Control, guns kill about 80 preschool children a year and 50 policemen and 20 children and teenagers DAILY.

• The funding for the study of gun violence was defeated after the Newtown tragedy but the New York Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to finalize the bill #FY2015, which could at least enable research and identify remedies to address those problems collaboratively.

• Production, trading and investing in gun manufacturing have soared after Newtown; the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates that nearly 15 million new guns may have been sold since that year, including semiautomatic weapons (double the sales since 2000). In Texas alone, AFTER Newtown, 1.3 million firearms were sold in the same year.

• Smith & Wesson reported a 77 percentsales increase in 2015; Sturm, Ruger & Co reported a 67 percent increase.

• BlackRock, Fidelity and Vanguard are the top shareholders of Smith & Wesson and also have holdings in Sturm, Ruger. Since Newtown, many of these companies have been shedding these holdings and in private equity funds as well.

COMMERCIAL WASTE

DID YOU KNOW?

The Commercial Waste Industry Must Be Transformed Because:

• Inefficient commercial waste collection is costly and polluting. New York City’s commercial waste collection industry is a “Wild West” lacking adequate regulatory oversight. While a handful of carters struggle to maintain high labor and environmental standards, hundreds of companies deploy thousands of dirty trucks to service customers along crisscrossing routes, needlessly wearing down roads and emitting pollution that damages truck drivers’ and residents’ health.

• Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionally burdened by solid waste handling. The vast majority of waste handled in NYC is transported by heavy trucks to and from waste transfer stations in a handful of low income communities and communities of color.

• Private sector waste workers face low wages and poor working conditions. Many workers in the commercial sector are paid poverty wages and lack benefits and full-time, permanent employment status. Waste work if amongst the most dangerous in the nation, ranked in the top ten deadliest occupations for years.

• Landfilling and incinerating waste is costly and polluting. NYC’s landfills incinerate the majority of its commercial waste even thought it could be recycled or composted. Over 90% of commercial waste is recyclable or compostable, but the latest study estimates that just 24% is recycled.

REFUGEE CRISIS

What are causes of the refugee crisis – in Central America to the Middle East and beyond – and what can we do to help? To examine this question, in May 2016, the Social Action Committee presented a program entitled “Syria and Beyond:  A Jewish Response to Today’s Global Refugee Crisis.” The program explored how Jewish texts, values and history call on us to respond and consider opportunities to take action.  This program featured short films and a presentation by Rabbi Jennie Rosenn from HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), which works around the world to protect refugees who have been forced out of their homelands. Rabbi Rosenn suggested actions that congregants can take to help refugees, including letter writing and tutoring to help them with English fluency.