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The America I Love: Taking a Stand for Racial Justice

The America I Love: Taking a Stand for Racial Justice

I had the privilege last week of speaking at a press conference convened by my colleague Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a Protestant minister, which included more than a dozen other faith leaders. Together, we spoke out against vicious, divisive rhetoric around the topic of race being used in this year's presidential campaign.

It was the second time in the last month that I’d stood alongside Rev. Barber to speak on the issue of racial justice. Recently, the Union for Reform Judaism and the NAACP came together in North Carolina for the launch of Nitzavim, a non-partisan Reform Jewish campaign for voting rights. That effort, like the work of the great religious leaders who joined us at last week’s event, represent what I believe is great about our nation.

Below are my remarks from last week's event.

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"I stand here today as a follower and student of the great Hebrew prophets, Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah – individuals who were on fire with their commitment to build a more just and compassionate world.  They knew they could not remain silent in their day, when they heard the voices of those who shouted against what was just and what was right.

"Too often in our own day, politicians of all stripes seek advantage through the denigration of others, through the promulgation of fear, and through the dissemination of hate.

"But not all views have validity. Some are anathema to everything we hold dear.

"As faith leaders, we raise our voices not for the reasonable differences of opinion when it comes to policy issues, but rather against those views that threaten the very foundation of our society based on law, equality and the dignity divinely granted to each and every person, no exceptions.

"The great Talmudic sage Hillel could entertain opposing views without coming unglued. He knew as we must, that those who dress, vote, earn, and practice their faith differently are part of our circle of responsibility. Hillel, I believe, would have loved the America that I love.

"That effort and the work of those faith leaders standing here today epitomize the America that I love.

"In the America I love, we celebrate, rather than denigrate, our multi-faith, multi-racial community built with respect and love.

"In the America I love, mass deportations are unthinkable. Instead, we honor the generations of immigrants who have brought their talents and dreams to these shores.

"In the America I love, we’re partisans for justice and compassion, not purveyors of bigotry.

"In the America I love, we are intolerant of systemic racism, the mass incarceration of black men, and the unconscionable income inequality that afflicts our land.

"In the America I love, we don’t demonize – even if we disagree.

"In the American I love, we don’t judge people’s worthiness based on their earning potential.

"In the America I love, we don’t hate those who God loves.

"In last week’s Torah portion – entitled in Hebrew, R'eih, from the 11th chapter of Deuteronomy – the Holy One put forward a challenge before our ancestors and to us: “See, this day I set before you the blessing and the curse.”

"Let there be no mistake: Today, these same stark choices are set before the American people.

"I am filled with the hope that I know I share with my colleagues, my extraordinary colleagues here today, leaders of the America we love, the America that our faith traditions teach us to build together.

"Let us choose the blessing of honor, love, justice and compassion instead of the curse of hatred, bigotry and racism.

"Let us do so together.

"And let us do so today."

Learn more about the Nitzavim campaign for voting rights and racial justice by visiting www.rac.org/nitzavim, and pledge to take action.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs is the president of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the largest Jewish movement in North America, with almost 900 congregations and nearly 1.5 million members. An innovative thought leader, dynamic visionary, and representative of progressive Judaism, he spent 20 years as the spiritual leader of Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY. Deeply dedicated to global social justice issues, he has led disaster response efforts in Haiti and Darfur. Learn more about Rabbi Rick Jacobs.
 

Rabbi Rick Jacobs
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