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A Recommitment to Our Enduring Values on this Momentous Day

A Recommitment to Our Enduring Values on this Momentous Day

U.S. Capitol

No matter which candidate you voted for, today is a momentous day. It marks the beginning of a new period in our shared history.

It also is a challenging day. Many Reform Jews feel emotionally exhausted following what was a particularly ugly campaign. Throughout, we witnessed exclusionary and sometimes violent rhetoric, as well as xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-Muslim bigotry, all of which remain, leaving painful marks on our communities.

We are concerned about our future, especially as it relates to the issues we hold most dear – and to the most vulnerable in our society. In the months and years ahead, it will be vital to seek out opportunities to continue our work of tikkun olam (repair of the world) by standing firm on our values at the federal, state, and local level.

Today is challenging for me on a personal level, too. As the father of four beautiful daughters, recent weeks have brought difficult conversations and more than a few tears to our home. One swastika was painted on our local middle school, and another at the seminary where I trained to be a rabbi. My daughters want to know what today means for their futures – their ability to earn a wage equal to male colleagues, their control over their own bodies, and their safety as Reform Jews in America.

In these discussions, I wear many hats: I am a man, a father, an organizer, a rabbi, and, as the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a representative of the Reform Jewish community in North America. In times like these, I turn to the collective wisdom of our faith to guide me.

I tell my daughters that, as our tradition dictates, “You are not required to finish the task, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirkei Avot 2:21). Indeed, each of us must do our part to protect the most vulnerable among us, and advance the progress in policies we have won. As Jews, we are compelled to perform tikkun olam, and as a Reform community, we are committed to organize and advocate for the common good, especially during periods of struggle and suffering. 

So tomorrow, January 21, 2017, my daughters will march in the Women’s March on Washington, not in protest, but in solidarity – with women (and those who identify as women) and allies of all shapes, sizes, races, ethnicities, and religions, united in support of women’s equality in North America. I am proud of them for standing up for themselves and what they believe, and for refusing to shy away from the difficult task of moving forward in this new and challenging time.

Today is also an encouraging day – one that invites us to reaffirm our commitment to enduring Jewish values – compassion, inclusion, and justice. It is a day that demands that we ask ourselves: What are the issues we care most passionately about? How can we stand up, get involved, and make our voices heard? It is a day that begins a new period of activism in my family, in our community, and in our nation.

How can you get started? Here are two ways you can get involved in the work of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism right now, helping to repair our broken world:

  • If you'll be at the Women’s March on Washington tomorrow in Washington, D.C., plan to meet us at the corner of 3rd Street NW and D Street NW at 9:45 a.m. as Reform Jews from around the country join forces with the National Council of Jewish Women, Jews United for Justice, T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and other Jewish groups to show their support for women’s rights.   
  • Visit our Urgency of Now Resource Center for information and action alerts on the most pressing issues. From this webpage, you can send letters to your elected officials, find programmatic resources for your congregation and community, and learn more about how Reform Jews of all ages can participate in social justice work.

On this momentous day, join me in recommitting to pursue social justice in North America.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner represents the Reform Movement to Congress and the administration as the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He also serves as the senior vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Named one of the most influential rabbis in America, he has been an inspirational leader, creative entrepreneur, and tireless advocate for social justice.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner
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