Every so often a congregant questions how we decide on the issues we support. We recognize that this important question deserves a considered response.
Our committee was established in 2016, and shortly thereafter we decided that we would support positions taken by the Religious Action Center (RAC) which for more than 60 years has “worked to educate, inspire, and mobilize the Reform Jewish Movement to advocate for social justice.”
A passion for social justice is reflected in the prophets and “in the declarations of our Movement’s leaders throughout its history. The ancient command ‘Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof! Justice, justice shall you seek!’ constantly reverberates in our ears.”
In the spirit of Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath who presided over its founding, the RAC has been a leader in social justice issues since its inception in 1959. In the 1960s RAC members joined with African American leaders in drafting the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The RAC also opposed the Vietnam War and became a hub for Vietnam War protesters.
In 1977 the RAC held its first Consultation on Conscience which has become the flagship public policy conference for the Reform Movement in the US. The Consultation is held every two years in Washington just after the new Congress takes office. Over the years, KI members have attended the Consultation where they have learned how to advocate for important policy matters by visiting Pennsylvania’s Senators and Representatives.
In 2020 the RAC launched its most recent non-partisan Civic Engagement Campaign to support congregations as they register and turn out voters, and organize for fairness in elections.
The RAC is “dedicated to working across lines of difference to organize and advocate for social change.” RAC’s priorities include: racial justice, gun violence prevention, mass incarceration, immigration and the criminalization of migrants seeking asylum, the denial of access to reproductive care, combating antisemitism and hate, as well as support for Civil Rights laws addressing systemic discrimination in voting, housing, and employment against not only women and people of color but also the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
Guaranteeing Voting Rights is a major initiative of the RAC today, and so it is also a major priority for our KI Social Justice Committee. As the RAC states on its website,
Given our longstanding commitment to the civil rights struggle, ongoing voter suppression and disenfranchisement, which disproportionately impacts Voters of Color, it is our duty to ensure all voters can safely and freely cast our ballots so that every voice is heard and our elections reflect the will of the people… Rabbi Yitzhak taught that “A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (Babylonian Talmud Berachot 55a).
The KI Social Justice Committee aligns itself with the RAC and participates regularly in our RAC PA meetings. We also work to build community by partnering locally with HIAS PA, CeaseFirePA, Arcadia University, Penn State Abington, the Cheltenham NAACP, area synagogues and our interfaith group, Eastern MontCo Interfaith Coalition. We welcome new members to our committee, and invite you to give us feedback or ask questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Arlene B, Holtz, Social Justice Committee Chair