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Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner

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Last night, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the First Step Act (S.756), a bipartisan bill that will begin to address some of the flaws in the United States criminal justice system. We urge the House to follow the Senate’s lead and pass the First Step Act unamended, even as we have concerns with the bill and commit to continuing to advocate for meaningful and comprehensive criminal justice reform

Among the issues the bill positively addresses are some mandatory minimum sentences as well as important prison reforms. At the same time, the bill falls notably short by failing to...

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Rabbi Jonah Pesner takes a selfie outside a polling place on Election Day

 

The U.S. 2018 Midterm Elections were historic in many ways.

We saw more women, minority, and Jewish candidates than ever before run for office, and we can now celebrate the diversity of our newly elected Congress. This 116th Congress will include more than 30 Jewish members, including newly elected representatives Andy Levin from Michigan, Dean Phillips from Minnesota, Max Rose from New York, Susan Wild from Pennsylvania, and Elaine Luria from Virginia. The new Congress includes the first Muslim women elected to Congress (Rashida Tlaib from Michigan and Ilhan Omar from...

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Street view of Tree of Life Congregation building in Pittsburgh

What I am left with is the silence. 

Standing outside Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, a normally busy neighborhood of Pittsburgh, it was eerily quiet. Overcast and cold, the building blocked by a police barricade, the only movement came from law enforcement and television crews in the unnerving stillness.

It was Sunday morning. There should have been parents dropping off their children for Sunday school, people out walking, dogs on leashes, bikes on the road. Instead it was just… silent.

Saturday, October 27 marked one of the darkest days in American Jewish...

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Photo of Tree of Life Synagogue

What I am left with is the silence. 

Standing outside of Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, a normally busy neighborhood of Pittsburgh, it was eerily quiet. Overcast and cold, blocked by a police barricade, the only movement came from law enforcement and tv crews in the unnerving stillness.

It was Sunday morning. There should have been parents dropping off their children for Sunday School, people out walking, dogs on leashes, bikes on the road. Instead it was just… silent.

Saturday, October 27 marked one of the darkest days in American Jewish history. During...

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Rabbi Pesner speaks at the CBC prayer breakfast

This post is adapted from remarks offered by Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 48th Annual Legislative Conference Prayer Breakfast.

During these Jewish Days of Awe, the Highest, Holiest of days, my people blast the shofar. It is a wake up call.

The great medieval Rabbi Maimonides said the shofar’s call demands:

“Wake up you sleepers!Rise up from your sleep!Rouse yourselves, you slumberers, out of your slumber.Look closely at yourselves;Examine your deedsAnd improve your ways.”

During these holiest of...

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