LET US RISE TO THE OCCASION
By RABBI MARVIN HIER, Simon Wiesenthal Center Founder and Dean
Inaugurating a President of the United States is a sacred moment for all Americans whatever their affiliation. The prayer, “The freedoms we enjoy are never granted in perpetuity but must be reclaimed by each generation…” could not be more fitting.
We now face such a pivotal moment where it is up to each and every one of us, Republicans, MOT_Kamala-HarrisDemocrats, and Independents, to weigh the grave circumstances now confronting the United States, the world’s greatest bastion of freedom.
Let us rise to the occasion, set aside our politics for a moment, and recognize that the right to differ must never include the right to destroy the very House that symbolizes and protects our liberties. For when you destroy the House of Freedom, we ourselves will no longer be free!
Let me conclude with these words from Isaiah: “May the day come soon when... justice will dwell in the wilderness and righteousness return to the fertile fields. And may the work of righteousness bring… peace… quietness, and confidence forever.”
May G-d bless our President Joseph Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris and may G-d bless all the members of the United States Senate and Congress.
THE JOYOUS FESTIVAL OF PURIM SHARES MANY CONNECTIONS
By RICHARD SCHWARTZ, Ph.D.
According to the Talmud, Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story, was a vegetarian while she lived in the palace of King Achashverosh. She was thus able to avoid violating the kosher dietary laws while keeping her Jewish identity secret.
During Purim it is a mitzvah to give mat’not evyonim (added charity to poor and hungry people). In contrast to these acts of sharing and compassion, animal-based diets involve the feeding of almost 70 percent of the grain in the United States to animals, while an estimated nine million people die of hunger and its effects annually and over ten percent of the world's people, are chronically malnourished.
During the afternoon of Purim, Jews partake in a seudah (special festive meal), at which family and friends gather to rejoice in the Purim spirit. Serving only vegan food at this occasion would enable all who partake to be consistent with Jewish mandates to preserve health, protect the environment, share with hungry people, conserve resources, and treat animals with compassion.
On Purim, Jews emphasize unity and friendship by sending gifts of food (shalach manot) to friends. Vegans act in the spirit of unity and concern for humanity by having a diet that best shares Earth’s abundant resources.
Because of the deliverance of the Jewish people that it commemorates, Purim is the most joyous Jewish holiday. By contrast, animals on factory farms never have a pleasant day, and millions of people throughout the world are too involved in worrying about their next meal to be able to experience many joyous moments.
Mordechai, one of the heroes of the Purim story, was a nonconformist. The Book of Esther affirms: “And all of the king’s servants . . . bowed down and prostrated themselves before Haman. . . . But Mordechai would not bow down nor prostrate himself before him” (Esther 3:2). Today, vegans represent non-conformity. At a time when most people in the wealthier countries think of animal products as the main part of their meals, when McDonald’s and similar fast-food establishments are expanding, vegans are resisting and insisting that there is a better, healthier, humane diet.
Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from the wicked Haman. Today, veganism can be a step toward deliverance from modern problems such as climate change, hunger, pollution, and resource scarcities.
Purim commemorates the time when conditions for the Jews changed from sorrow to gladness and from mourning to celebrating. Today, a switch to veganism could result in positive changes for many people, since plant-based diets would reduce health problems and hunger. Jews hear the reading of the Megillah twice during Purim, in order to reeducate themselves about the terrible threats that faced the Jewish people and their deliverance. Jewish vegans believe that if Jews were educated about the horrible realities of factory farming and the powerful Jewish mandates about taking care of our health, showing compassion to animals, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, and helping hungry people, they would seriously consider switching to vegan diets.
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3-9 Adar, 5781 Feb. 15-21, 2021 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--645th Web Ed.
CHAIR SOLIS' STATEMENT ON STATE OF CALIFORNIA EXPANDING VACCINE ELIGIBILITY
LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis, Supervisor to the First District, released the following statement in response to the State of California announcing that people between the ages of 16 and 64 with disabilities and those with underlying health conditions including cancer, chronic kidney disease, immunocompromised, and severe obesity, will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning March 15.
“Throughout this past year, we’ve witnessed firsthand how devastating COVID-19 can be for those with underlying conditions, regardless of age. Those fighting cancer, coping with kidney disease, or who have immunocompromised systems have been far more susceptible to severe outcomes from this pandemic. As such, I welcome the news that California will be expanding vaccine eligibility to those age 16 through 64 with underlying conditions and those with disabilities. This will not only be a lifesaving intervention but give much-needed relief to those with underlying conditions and their loved ones.
"However welcome this news, it is dependent upon Los Angeles County receiving sufficient supplies of the vaccine to reach everyone in an efficient and equitable manner. I am proud of the capacity that the county has set up, creating a network of large vaccination sites for mass delivery as well as partnering with local health clinics to reach those communities hit hardest. As we continue to vaccinate those over the age of 65 and prepare to expand to our essential workers, I stand ready to work with our state and federal partners to bring this critical assistance to those hit hardest by the pandemic.”
LA ASSISTS IN PROVIDING DIGNITY THROUGH BURIAL SUPPORT FOR COVID-19 VICTIMS
LOS ANGELES, CA – Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis, Supervisor to the First District, released the following statement after the Board of Supervisors approved her motion directing the County’s Chief Executive Officer to assess the feasibility of implementing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) burial cost program, pending further clarification on the program guidelines from FEMA, including how it will be implemented in California, to provide reimbursement of burial costs for Los Angeles County residents and report back in 30 days.
“To date, there have been over 17,000 families grieving the loss of family members who died of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County. Their profound grief is often compounded by the fact they cannot afford the significant costs of their loved one’s burial.
“From East Los Angeles to communities in the San Gabriel Valley, I have heard from so many of my constituents, as well as staff at funeral homes, of this real and devastating toll on families. Residents have had to organize car wash fundraisers, GoFundMe online campaigns, and food sales to come up with the money to lay loved ones to rest.
“With poverty rates continuing to skyrocket due to COVID-19, burial costs are an added burden for those already struggling to pay for basic needs like food and rent.
“Los Angeles County has a responsibility to help provide for a proper burial, allowing dignity for those who have died from COVID-19 and closure for their mourning families. Although program details are forthcoming from FEMA, time is of the essence.
“We cannot delay human dignity and healing for our families.”
The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (H.R. 133) enacted on December 27, 2020 appropriates $2 billion to FEMA to provide financial assistance to individuals and households for COVID-19-related funeral expenses, covering eligible funeral expenses that were incurred through December 31, 2020. The legislation requires FEMA to provide this assistance through the States and waives the 25 percent State match. The legislation further specifies that there is no cost sharing requirement associated with this assistance. FEMA is reviewing the legislation and evaluating potential options for implementation to make assistance for eligible expenses available retroactively.
The motion outlines for the 30-day report back to include a specific focus on the financial model required for implementation, and a plan for equitable distribution of the funds, which should include providing culturally and linguistically-competent information for residents in areas with high COVID-19 death rates to access the program.
SECOND ROUND OF ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENTS
By SENATOR BRAD SHERMAN
In December Congress passed, and the President signed into law, a COVID Relief Package which provided an additional stimulus payment from the IRS of $600 per person (but less for families within the incomes over $150,000). The IRS was expected to directly deposit these checks into accounts starting in early January.
While I fought to secure more than $600 and voted for the increase to $2,000, passing something now is better than not passing anything at all. We will need to do more in 2021 and I'm optimistic that under the incoming Biden administration, we will take the additional steps necessary to meet our country's economic and medical needs.
For a one-page summary of the Economic Impact Payments enacted into law, click here
A "frequently asked questions" document is also available here
Finally, the IRS has a website where you can track your payment. You can access here
If you need additional help tracking your stimulus payment, please contact our constituent service office at 818-501-9200 or visit our website at BradSherman.house.gov/Help