Wednesday, March 9, 2011

From the Rabbis in Madison, Wisconsin

The established Jewish community has commented very little about the standoff in Madison, Wisconsin. Here is a plea received from the rabbis who live there.

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

As you know, over the past three weeks Wisconsin has continually been in the news due to the ongoing protests against Governor Walker's “budget repair bill.” The “budget repair bill” proposes several measures which are designed to severely weaken the public unions: an end to collective bargaining, mandatory voting every year to maintain the union, with 51% of union members needed to confirm the union, and union dues no longer being allowed to be deducted from paychecks. The bill also calls for the state’s Medicaid system to be regulated by the Department of Health, such that changes in eligibility, benefits, and reimbursements would be made by the DOH without any legislative oversight. Further, the bill allows the state to allow no-bid sales of power plants, a move that would primarily benefit the billionaire Koch brothers.
Now that Governor Walker has presented his two-year budget proposal, the protests and controversy will only intensify. A few ‘highlights’ of the bill:

· $900 million in cuts to education, plus caps on property tax increases that otherwise might have been used to make up part of the shortfall

· An end to the state’s recycling mandate and cuts to recycling subsidies

· Wisconsin Arts Board completely defunded

· A 49.5% cut to the University of Wisconsin system (in addition to splitting the flagship institution – the University of Wisconsin-Madison), resulting in 10,000 layoffs

· UW Hospitals and Clinics completely defunded

We commend to you a very thorough analysis of the most egregious aspects of the Governor’s budget proposal, in the on-line version of a local Madison paper called The Isthmus. You can find the article, “Emily's Post: Gov. Mills does not approve of Gov. Walker's budget” at

As media attention inevitably focuses elsewhere, we wanted to reach out to you. This will be a very important issue to us for a long time to come, and we are gravely concerned that these sharp cuts will spread throughout the country. We are already seeing similar legislation in Ohio, Indiana, and New Jersey.In that vein, we wanted to share with you the following resources in the hopes that you will consider writing op-eds to your local papers, giving sermons, and holding community forums on these issues. Please visit the website of Shaarei Shamayim, Madison’s Reconstructionist/Renewal synagogue, where you will find statements by Madison rabbis, a letter to our colleagues signed by these rabbis, op-eds and news articles about Jewish involvement in the protests, and photos from a Kabbalat Shabbat service in the State Capitol led by some of our rabbis. The website is: The University of Wisconsin Hillel also has a webpage with several articles and links. Please visit


Rabbi Renee Bauer
Rabbi Joshua Ben-Gideon
Rabbi Rebecca Ben-Gideon
Rabbi Jonathan Biatch
Rabbi Kenneth Katz
Rabbi Bonnie Margulis
Rabbi Andrea Steinberger
Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman

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