Minutes and Audio Recording - General Meeting, May 2, 2017

Click here to listen to the meeting's audio recording:

Here are the meeting's minutes:

General Meeting #6

Central Synagogue of Nassau County/Congregation Beth Emeth

6:45-7:30pm - Technology Training - Twitter

7:30pm - General Meeting

Meeting opened with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Cindy  and Emma welcomed attendees and thanked the Temple for hosting our group. Announced that the meeting was being audio-recorded; the recording will be posted to our website and Facebook Group.

Reminder that we are gathered as private citizens for nonpartisan action, and to keep this in mind during upcoming discussion and action.

Overview of RaisingVoicesUSA

RaisingVoicesUSA is a grassroots, nonpartisan group focused on advancing causes relating to social justice. Education and advocacy are at the heart of our mission.

Our goals are:

  • To help people connect within the community and create a space of like-minded individuals

  • To be a source for vetted and valid information

  • To empower and encourage action to preserve social justice and protect our democratic ideals.

Priority Issue: American Health Care Act (Jaime)

Republicans are trying to force their latest version of the AHCA bill through a vote in the House this week. Early estimates indicate that this bill will cause 24 million people to lose their coverage, and will undo the requirement that companies provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, among other damaging changes.

We must call our representatives and raise our voices against this bill.

Continue to call reps who are openly against the bill (Schumer, Gillibrand, Rice) and thank them for opposing, but also urge them to be more vocal and bold in their opposition, especially in offering possible alternative solutions (such as the NYS Universal Healthcare Bill S4840, which we discussed at the April meeting). We recommend calling their local offices, as it can often be difficult to get through on their lines in DC/Albany; use www.house.gov or govtrack.us to find this contact info.

Especially reach out to NY reps who are on the fence or have not made a statement on their position (Reed, Stepanik, King, Fasso). Again, look to house.gov or govtrack.us to find their contact info, and watch the FB group for updated information on representatives’ positions.

A group member commented that our position often seems to be in opposition and involves a lot of saying “no” - can we help our representatives come up with positive alternatives? We need to energize the democratic party to come up with plans that we can support and would improve the ACA.

In response, Cindy noted that this would be a valuable talking point when we contact our representatives, that we should encourage them to provide leadership and initiative in setting an agenda instead of just reacting to the Republicans actions.

Emma also noted that there are plans to hold a health care forum to discuss these issues, including the single-payer, NYS Universal Health Care plan, in more detail.

Another group member commented that the mission of the RVUSA Health Care Committee is to promote positive/affirmative alternatives to current plans, and to work on interim actions that don’t rely on the passage of the single payer system.

Postcard Parties (Jill G.)

On Friday 4/21 we held a postcard party focused on environmental advocacy. Sarah and Stacey, co-chairs of the Science and the Environment committee, hosted and provided an opportunity to learn about and discuss the local and national issues while writing 219 postcards. Attendees also made signs and posters for the Science and Climate marches taking place 4/22 and 4/29.

Additional issue-based parties are being planned, including a 5/11 party focused on health care and a June party focused on LGBTQ issues in advance of pride marches and parades.

Recap of Science and Climate Marches (Sarah)

First, Sarah noted that she would provide postcard scripts and addresses for anyone who would like to continue to send postcards on environmental issues.

March for Science on 4/22 - On Earth Day, marches in NYC, DC and other cities across the world drew tens of thousands of attendees from a huge variety of specialties/areas marching in support of the fundamental truth of science. RVUSA members attended the NYC and DC marches as well as a smaller sister event in Tanglewood.

Climate March on 4/29 - Marches in DC and over 375 sister cities drew hundreds of thousands of attendees (200k in DC alone); about 1000 people were reported at the local Long Beach march, including many RVUSA members. 4/29 was also the day of the annual LI Bike Parade in Eisenhower Park, which saw doubled attendance over last year.

Update on Racist/Anti-semitic Graffiti in Rockville Centre (Emma)

Graffiti found on a tree in RVC; was removed, but provides an opportunity to fulfill RVUSA’s mission to educate and mobilize for positive action.

Central Synagogue is selling “Hate Ha No Home Here” lawn signs and posters for $5 each; one order has been placed, and they will place another once they have at least 20 more orders. contact Joy Gluzman at Central Synagogue 430demott@gmail.com to order.

Emma and Cindy also met with leadership from various constituencies in our community, including the clergy, school district, RVC Youth Coalition, Hispanic Brotherhood, Mayor's Office, Police Commissioner, Todd Kaminsky's Office, and Brian Curran's Office. It was a productive conversation and the group identified the following values to inform our future work:

  • Practice Empathy

  • Listen Openly

  • Celebrate Diversity

  • PLC - Promote Loving Concern

Attendees plan to open dialogues with their respective organizations about what each group can contribute and how we can work together.  We will then work toward a community event which promotes “uncomfortable” conversations about issues surrounding diversity.

Finally, we will engage our youth in an art project based upon the core values we identified this morning and listed above.  We aim to have a culminating event to display our students’ work and may produce posters, lawn signs, decals, etc. which can be widely disseminated throughout our town as a symbol of our values.

A group member asked if something permanent like a mural might be a possible outcome of the youth project - Emma said it could be looked into.

The group intends to meet again in the next couple of weeks, and we will have an update at the next general RVUSA meeting. RVUSA members are invited to send any additional thoughts/ideas they have to Emma and Cindy.

The Importance of Civil Engagement and Local Elections - (Scottie Coads, Chair of Civic Engagement for the NAACP NYC Conference)

Scottie’s message is that staying engaged in local elections is our responsibility as voters - the people we elect will touch on every issue we care about.

The most important thing is to encourage regular voting and voter registration; we are in the situation we are in because too many people stayed home on election day, and because too many people we not adequately educated on the issues at hand. We have to start now to increase voter registration leading up to the next round of elections, and encourage all registered voters to show up at the polls.

NYS Senators and assemblymen will be up for a vote in 2018; in 2020 we will have the next Presidential election as well as the next census. The Census will inform redistricting, which can have a profound effect on election outcomes.

Our other priority must be to hold politicians accountable who are not adequately serving their constituents and instead bow to party pressure. Remember: elected officials are public servants and we need to pay attention and speak out if they don’t serve us properly.

As voters, we need to know our rights. Scottie provided a “Know Your Rights” handout:

  • It is your right to:

    • Inspect a sample ballot

    • Ask a poll watcher for a demonstration of the voting mechanism

    • Ask if your state permits you to case an affidavit if your voter registration is challenged

    • Request a replacement ballot if you make a mistake

    • Vote if you are in line by the time the polls close

    • Vote for the candidate of your choice

  • Your responsibilities as a voter:

    • Know the local voter registration requirements and register to vote by the deadline

    • Notify the Board of Elections (BOE) of any change to your address or circumstance that might affect your registration status

    • Know the rules and options for absentee ballots and early voting (if applicable in your state)

    • Know the hours and locations of your polling place

    • Know that the NYS does not require voting ID - you should not be asked to show ID in order to vote.

    • Familiarize yourself with the candidates and issues

    • Ask for help if you need it.

Finally, if a candidate asks you for support, don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions. FInd out where they stand on the issues that matter to you, and ask why they would be a better candidate than their competitors. Don’t be confused by misleading language and focus on facts. Be educated and be involved in the process!

Cindy noted that a number of RVUSA members are running for office, and expressed RVUSA’s support for members getting directly involved in the political process. [insert list?]

How to Talk Politics at the Dinner Table Again: Bridging the Ideological Gap (Tricia Riddell, Professor of Applied Neuroscience)

Tricia introduced the group the concept of “psychological safety”, the sense of being ablt to show and be our true self without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status or identity.

The brain interprets psychological threats the same as physical threats, and a loss of psychological safety can threaten your:

  • Identity - feeling you can’t be yourself

  • Group status (ie. family, friends) - being the outsider in a group in which you want to belong

  • Physical safety - fear that a situation will escalate

  • Values - lose confidence in the beliefs that form your sense of self

  • Sense of justice/fairness - instinctive and intuitive

  • Sense of autonomy - lack of independence or ability to make your own decisions

  • Connection to others - fear of isolation/rejection


How do we keep ourselves psychologically safe while also protecting the safety of others in difficult conversations? Consider:

  • What do you need to feel psychologically safe?

  • What does a group need to feel psychologically safe?

  • Whose responsibility is it?

Attendees discussed these questions in small groups, then shared some comments with the group at large:

  • Needs may be different for men than they are for women - often women need to feel physically safe in order to feel psychologically safe.

    • Tricia noted that men have the fight-or-flight reflex, while women have tend-or-befriend - different way of thinking.

  • Rational thought diffuses emotion - ask yes or no questions and encourage the person you’re speaking with to use logic - as does shock/pattern disruption

Trica provided advice for participating safely in difficult discussions:

  • Don’t:

    • Tell people they’re wrong

    • Fight feelings with facts - the brain doesn’t hold details well, so arguing with the often won’t supercede the general feeling a person has about them.

    • Agree to disagree - backing down is not productive to progress

    • Tell people how to think - it challenges their autonomy

  • Do:

    • Be curious

    • Find common ground and look for shared values - find points where you agree before tackling disagreements

    • Treat other people’s identities and values with respect

    • Allow people space to think for themselves - encourage people to inspect their feelings (and do the same for your own)

In general, try to dig deeper, ask questions and learn.

A group member asked how to approach someone who refuses to engage, even when you’ve tried all of the things on the “do” list - what if they refuse to educate themselves and learn? Tricia recommends then introducing the person to the idea of psychological safety.

Finally, Tricia recommended that we all practice these discussion techniques with people we’re comfortable with to get used to the process.

(Tricia’s presentation is available here)

Upcoming Events

Next general meeting: Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Central Synagogue of Nassau County/Congregation Beth Emeth

We will be joined by a representative from Planned Parenthood.

Keep an eye on our Facebook group for information on future postcard parties!