Today I will leave my position as director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism to assume my responsibilities as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. It is a great honor. It is linked with the Religious Action Center with what has been the abiding passion of my heart: to make real the Jewish prophetic ideals of justice, peace, freedom, equality and compassion, in America, in Israel, in the lives of human beings everywhere.
The greatest blessing of my life was to do so for 40 years at the Religious Action Center. Imagine: someone giving you a job to do what you love doing more than anything in the world, day in and day out. Of course, by this point in his journey, Moses had approached the Promised Land, and we have a bit longer to go, but…
I believe in liberal Judaism, in its understanding that our sacred texts were written by men and women struggling to understand what God called them to do in order to make God’s values real here on earth – and that we each write the next chapter through the work of our lives.
I believe in the Reform Jewish Movement, and believe that its strength, creativity and inspiration will be the bastion of Judaism for all the generations to come.
I believe in America, in its ideals and its willingness to struggle, time and again, to live up to those ideals: that it might inspire the global community to embody the freedom and hope that is at its core.
I believe in the great cause of social justice: that we are not the prisoners of the bitter failures of the past, but that we can — and must — be the shapers of a better future for all God’s children.
And I believe in you – the leaders, teachers, activists, rabbis, Jewish professionals, the members of our congregations, the families, the Jews affiliated and unaffiliated — who believe that being a Jew means speaking up for and empowering the powerless; means pursuing justice for all; means doing whatever we can to bring peace to the world. You have made everything I have accomplished possible. You have upheld the Religious Action Center, built by the generation of the Eisendraths, Vorspans, Hirsches, Brickners, Lipmans, Gittlesohns, and Evanses – and made it a living tapestry of contemporary social justice in America.
Now the torch passed to me by that generation is being handed to the next – to the generation of Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, himself a great champion of social justice, who is reshaping Reform Judaism for the better; to the remarkable, experienced, ever-creative staff of the Religious Action Center; to the young rabbis across North America who are recharging social justice everywhere; and the extraordinary lay leaders who guide this vital enterprise.
For all you have done, I am forever in your debt.
For what you will do in writing the next chapter of prophetic Judaism, all will be in your debt.