State Sen. Brian Weinstein (D-41st district) was named a 'Champion for Children' this year by the Children's Alliance.
Weinstein was recognized for helping to eliminate the co-pay on reduced-price school breakfasts and increase funding for Washington's school breakfast and summer meal programs. The Legislature included $2 million in this year's supplemental budget for these programs, assisting 15,000 additional children.
An estimated 13 million American children lack adequate food, notes Weinstein. 'Children don't perform well academically when they're distracted by hunger. Making sure every child has the basic necessities to succeed in school and life should be a priority for all of us,' he says.
Washington is the first state to eliminate the co-pay for reduced-price breakfasts, according to the alliance, a Seattle-based child advocacy group.
Weinstein tells me he became interested in children's issues while he was campaigning. 'When you're running for office, every group wants to meet with you and talk to you. You meet a lot of business lobbies and special interest groups,' most of them concerned with their own needs, he explains. But when he was approached by the Children's Campaign Fund, 'it seemed like a breath of fresh air,' he says.
'These are concerned people'they cared about kids. Here was a group that was not selfish, lobbying on behalf of kids, especially poor kids who don't have a voice.'
As vice chair of the Senate Early Learning, K-12 and Higher Education committee, the senator championed several other measures this session to help students. He pushed for $28 million in remediation to help high school students who are struggling with the WASL and also supported a bill creating a study of barriers to academic success.
Weinstein, who with his wife and three kids belongs to Temple B'nai Torah in Bellevue, laments the short time legislators are given to accomplish so much. Adding to the brief legislative session is that 'most people hate their politicians, mistrust government,' although he admits that's 'what America was founded on.'
Education is the 'big umbrella' issue for the legislature next year. A study is being done to examine how the state funds education and if we are doing enough to ensure that Washington's students 'keep up with the world.'
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On May 16, 125 men and women from five different countries bicycled into Eilat, Israel, completing a 265-mile journey that started out in Jerusalem six days earlier. The riders were participating in the fourth annual Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride, 'Cycling for Peace, Partnership and Environmental Protection.'
The institute, a teaching and research center, prepares Arab and Jewish leaders to cooperatively address and resolve the region's environmental challenges.
Among the riders was Yoel Lessing from Seattle's Eastside.
'It was a very exciting trip,' says Yoel. 'I definitely learned a lot about environmental activism in Israel.'
He especially appreciated interacting with the Jordanian and Palestinian Arab students from the institute. 'We got to understand the Jewish-Arab relationship differently with the common understanding of environmental issues. We all share the same water. It's a very strong case for working together and cooperation.'
Although Lessing lived in Israel for three years in the '90s, he says he'd never seen the country quite like this.
'You really connect with the land,' he explains, 'when you're seeing it from a bike, rather than a bus or car window.'
There were lots of Israelis on the ride, along with people of all ages from all over the world.
'It didn't feel just like a tourist event, it felt like a ride that was focused on partnership and environmental issues,' says Yoel. The institute hopes it will raise $500,000 from this year's ride (each rider raises at least $3,600) and Lessing remains enthusiastic about and committed to their mission.
'The work that Hazon is doing is very important and I'd like them to have more exposure. I'd like to encourage anyone who's interested to participate in the ride because they're in for an experience they'll never forget and will always enjoy.'
For information, visit www.israelride.org.
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Wendy Marcus, cantorial soloist at Seattle's Temple Beth Am, has collaborated with Shawn Weaver of Shawn's Kugel, to produce For the Sorrowing Heart: Jewish Songs of Consolation and Hope, a CD of five psalms and chants traditionally used in mourning.
The cuts are a Shlomo Carlebach niggun (a wordless melody intended to open up the heart to prayer), 'Adonee Roee/Psalm 23,' 'Yedid Nefesh/My Soul's Beloved,' 'El Maleh Rachamim/God of Compassion,' and 'Alle Brider Alle Schvester/All Brothers All Sisters.'
Wendy sings and Shawn plays guitar and sings on the album. They are offering it at no charge to the community, although donations to offset costs are welcome. Contact Wendy through the synagogue at 206-525-0915.