The Urgency of Now: Six Ways to Take Action in the New Political Landscape

December 9, 2016Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner

The deeply polarizing 2016 election elevated rifts in our social fabric, underscored the pain of those who feel excluded from our evolving economy and culture, and emphasized a persistent distrust and scapegoating of “the other.” Throughout the campaign, we heard violent, exclusionary, and racist rhetoric in ways not seen in mainstream politics in a generation. We witnessed thinly veiled allusions to centuries-old anti-Semitic propaganda, hate crimes against Muslims, and deplorable actions and threats against marginalized populations.

Our tradition’s ageless and enduring call of Torah to rodeph tzedek – pursue justice – continues to inspire today’s Reform Movement. As members of the largest and most diverse Jewish denomination in North America – which includes liberals and conservatives, Democrats, Republicans and independents alike – we have a responsibility, individually and collectively, to reject hate and help heal our nation. We are called to stand up for values that are central to Reform Judaism and now are threatened – a just immigration policy, universal health care, LGBT equality, and unfettered access to the ballot.

The need for tikkun olam, world repair, at this moment is enormous. So, how can we act in ways that are nonpartisan, principled, Jewishly-inspired, and universally applicable?

There are several things every Reform Jew can do now.

  1. Check out the most pressing legislative and transition-related action alerts and resources, including future training webinars for activists across North America.
  2. Join us to pose questions to cabinet nominees about their views and records on critical issues by suggesting topics for senators to probe during confirmation hearings. 
  3. Sign-up for emails from the Religious Action of Reform Judaism, the hub of the Reform Jewish community's social justice work, to help focus your efforts and stay up-to-date on the issues most important to you.
  4. Call on President-Elect Trump not to appoint Steve Bannon to a senior White House position. As executive chair of Breitbart News, Bannon gave voice to those trafficking in anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hate, and misogyny.
  5. Urge President Obama to protect undocumented immigrants who have applied for or participated in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
  6. Register for Consultation on Conscience, the Reform Jewish community’s premiere social justice gathering, in Washington, DC from April 30 – May 2, 2017.

The Reform Jewish community stands united against hatred and bigotry and for respect and justice. We have a long and proud history of working with elected leaders from across the ideological spectrum to advance our social justice goals. When our values are at stake, we speak loudly and clearly, championing religious liberty, defending reproductive rights, and upholding constitutional principles of equal justice.

The challenges we face today are significant and we must respond to them robustly – and in new and creative ways. Each of us must be ready to do our part to protect and advance that which we hold dear. The knowledge that I am part of our powerful the Reform Jewish community – rooted in tikkun olam, proud of its history of activism, and committed to the work ahead – sustains me. Never have the words of Pirkei Avot (2:21) resonated more for me: You are not required to finish the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.

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