Reform Movement Leaders Meet with Top White House Official
On Thursday, July 19th, Rabbis Rick Jacobs, Steve Fox, and David Saperstein joined thirteen other leaders of the Reform Jewish Movement for a meeting at the White House with Chief of Staff Jack Lew. Among the domestic and international topics discussed were Israel's security and well being, the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and ending employment discrimination against LGBT Americans. The White House meeting also included representation from the Reconstructionist Movement.
The meeting, which included leaders from the Reform Movement's congregational, rabbinic and seminary arms, as well as URJ Board members and rabbis from congregations across the U.S., was held at the invitation of the White House, and provided an opportunity to share with Chief of Staff Lew our Movement's top social justice priorities. Topics highlighted were the importance of distributing the tax burden equitably and making enhanced revenues a core part of addressing our urgent economic challenges; ensuring that changes to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act result in expanded coverage; securing Israel's qualitative military edge in the face of both growing arms sales to the region and Iran's nuclear threat; affirming that the Administration's compromise on the HHS contraception issue is not weakened and that everything possible is done to ensure that every woman has access to contraception as a matter of basic rights and fundamental dignity even while protecting religious liberty; protecting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from devastating cuts in the 2012 Farm Bill; expressing appreciation for the President's Executive Order offering "DREAM Act" type relief from removal and work authorization to qualifying undocumented young people; urging the White House to do more to prevent hiring discrimination against LGBT Americans; and more. Mr. Lew addressed a broad range of issues raised by the Reform leaders. Particular emphasis was placed on efforts to enhance Israel's security, and expand sanctions and other forms of economic and political pressure on Iran to curtail its development of nuclear weapons. Much of the discussion addressed the Movement's concerns about protecting the civil rights of women and minorities and economic plight of the poor and vulnerable. Rabbi Saperstein noted, "We are deeply appreciative of the time Mr. Lew spent with our Movement's top leaders, hearing our priorities and sharing those of the President." Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, said: "We know that many of the issues our congregations and congregants care about deeply are also of concern to the White House. We appreciated his openness on those issues where we differed, and we welcomed the opportunity to speak with the candor that we know the White House values." See our press release for a full list of participants.