In March I was in Carson City with Nevadans for the Common Good. Our Temple is a member thereof and we work on issues with lots of other faith based institutions to make the lives of our local Nevadan population better, Jews and others included.
On this visit we were focusing on two main things, namely getting more funding for Meals on Wheels and seeing if the State can commit
to the weighted funding formula. For Meals on Wheels, Governor Brian Sandoval generously said recently that he wanted to
include one and a half million dollars for the next two years to help the program. This is really fantastic and would help stabilize what we have already. We were in Northern Nevada, seeing if we could exert pressure to get enough extra money that would clear the
waiting list of around 1000 people, some of whom live in our own neighborhood. The Jewish value of ‘ma’achil re’evim/feeding the hungry’ comes heavily into play here. Aside from the Jewish, ethical support for this program, there is also a pragmatic reason. It costs so much less if a person stays in their home compared to if they go to hospital or residential care. Nutritional meals several times a week help keep people in their own homes. Up until now, the State is 51st in the nation for local funding for such a program,
but because of the pressure of groups like Nevadans for the Common Good, of which Temple Sinai is a part, the governor and other legislators are coming to understand how important the program is.
The second issue we were talking about was public education. Joshua Ben Gamla states in the Talmud (Bava Batra 21a) that schools should be established in every place. We certainly have that in Nevada and many of them are wonderful, but there is always room
for improvement. Nevadans for the Common Good has been arguing for a while now that a bit more public money should be devoted to English Language Learners, students who benefit from Free and Reduced Lunches, and students with special needs, whether that be learning difficulties or gifted and talented students. Legislators actually voted this in during the last session. We have been pushing them to put their money where their vote is and are making this happen for real.
I have to say that it is a real joy to see one’s Jewish values applying to the wider world to help Jewish people and others. It is a great privilege to be involved in this work as a Rabbi and is totally vital alongside the work I do inside the Jewish community. I urge you to inform yourself about these issues. Contact me directly if you want to know more about Nevadans for the Common Good, and be in dialogue with your local legislators to make our corner of Nevada a little bit better.
Rabbi Malcolm Cohen