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I’m praying that these weeks of consolation before the High Holidays will give us the time to confront our sins and respond in ways that will help us to heal from our brokenness and find the courage and resolve to build a better year for all.
"Have we forgotten the call of the shofar already / To gather and stand up for what’s right? / Have we forgotten what shofar’s demanding / That we pursue justice, compassion, holy light?"
This legislative session, members of the Florida legislature are working to pass legislation that will chill free speech and assembly by threatening to criminalize peaceful public protest. The bill would intimidate and punish peaceful protesters.
As the High Holidays approach once again, we have created a number of resources for individuals and congregations to utilize as we mark these most important days in the Jewish calendar. We know we will be a stronger, more vibrant Jewish community when we fully incorporate the diversity that is the reality of modern Jewish life. We hope that each of these materials will help your High Holiday experiences and programming serve a wide range of identities and help you create communities of belonging.
I joined America’s Journey for Justice in North Carolina during the week of Nitzavim, a portion that will be read again on the morning of Yom Kippur. It describes for us that moment when our ancestors stood at Sinai to enter into covenant with God.
Passover is my favorite time of year. More than exchanging presents on Hanukkah or blowing shofar by on the beaches of the Atlantic on Rosh Hashanah (my family’s tradition), Passover is when I am most able to connect with my family and my own Jewish values. While the extended meal and Seder lend themselves easily to close interpersonal and spiritual renewal, it’s the central concepts of Passover that make me return to this time of year again and again with excitement and energy; Passover is a holiday about social justice and freedom from oppression. It is an opportunity, among family and friends, to dig deeper into the issues of our time.
As we sit at our Passover Seders, we relive the story of how our ancestors were slaves in the land of Egypt, and how they were freed. Our history of slavery and redemption calls on us to speak up against injustice in our world today, especially when it comes to workers’ rights. Modern-day slavery continues to be a scourge on humanity worldwide, and it is imperative that we take action to end it. We also should not lose sight of the national policies we can enact to ensure that workers who are employed in the open marketplace are treated with justice.
When we sit down for the retelling of the Exodus story at our Passover Seder each year, we are both retelling and reliving that experience. As Jews, we are taught that “in every generation, all of us are obliged to regard ourselves as if we had personally gone forth from the Land of Egypt.” Victoria Levi, who we met in Selma while commemorating Bloody Sunday and hearing from inspiring Jewish activists like Peter Yarrow, inspired me with her story.
We often talk about climate change and environmental initiatives to combat the human-made disruption of our earth’s systems and exhaustion of its resources. However, while climate change is a threat that affects us all as sea levels rise and we experience more frequent extreme weather events, people of color and low-income people across the United States and the world will be disproportionately burdened by the most damaging impacts of a changing and less habitable climate. Less economically stable communities are unable to bounce back from the devastation to infrastructure caused by extreme weather events like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Similarly, communities of color are significantly more likely to live near toxic waste facilities and to unequally come into contact with polluted air and water.
One of my favorite things about Reform Judaism is how much the Reform Movement accepts multicultural families and celebrates diversity. The Reform Movement has always stood for inclusion and acceptance of all types and ways of being Jewish, and our wholehearted embrace of interfaith families is a demonstration of our commitment to pluralism even within Reform Judaism.