Speaking on the Journey to Justice

These were my comments at the NAACP Rally at the beginning of the Journey for Justice. This is a 40 day+ march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C.  The Central Conference of American Rabbis is partnering with the NAACP and other African American Civil Rights groups to call attention to the systemic racism in our society.  The Journey for Justice is focusing on restoring the Civil Rights Voting Act, jobs and education, the scourge of mass incarceration, police brutality and equality and liberty for all Americans.

Good morning. I am here on our holiest day of the week the Sabbath  representing the over 2300 Reform Rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.  As President of the oldest and largest rabbinical organization in N. America, we who have come to pray and walk alongside our brothers and sisters commit not only to talking the talk of justice and righteousness but walking the walk. More than 150 rabbis from all over our country will join in this journey each day. We will be carrying with us a sacred scroll of Torah, the five Books of Moses that inspires our commitment to justice and equality and liberty.

As Rabbis of the CCAR, We pledge this day to stand with and work with and learn from you To renew the historic Jewish – African American relationships and coalition that once worked together with ease. This is a new beginning.

We Rabbis pledge to work with you end the culture of racism in our country. We pledge to work wholeheartedly to end mass incarceration in our country We pledge to work tirelessly with you  to give every child the education she deserves, we pledge to work to root out gun violence in every neighborhood and to fight for economic justice for every person and to secure voting rights for every American citizens.

God of all bless those who March today and for the next 40 days.  May our feet be swift, our dedication to your ideals of Tzedek u mishpat righteousness and justice be strong and lift us on Eagles wings as you once did for the children of Israel so that we can bring about the glorious day when all shall eat at the table of liberty and the true Promise of America.

#justice summer #tzedeksummer @NAACP @cornellwbrooks

Central Conference of American Rabbis Condemns Attacks on Egged Buses Featuring Women of the Wall

The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) condemns Monday’s attacks on Egged
buses carrying advertisements of Women of the Wall in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem
neighborhood, Mea Shearim. These buses were apparently targeted for violence because they
feature advertisements placed by Women of the Wall, inviting young women becoming Bat
Mitzvah to read from the Torah at the Kotel, the Western Wall of the Jerusalem Temple Mount,
Judaism’s holiest site.
The vandalism of advertisements of Women of the Wall on Egged buses is evidence of
groundless hatred of the perpetrators’ fellow Jews. Moreover, the violence perpetrated against the
advertisements desecrates the Divine Name by defacing a photograph of our sacred Torah that
appears in the ad. According to Ha’aretz, “Police were called in after a group of ultra-Orthodox
men threw paint on the signs and attempted to slash the tires of the buses.”
The CCAR calls upon rabbis of all Jewish religious movements to condemn this ongoing battle
against women’s right to pray at Judaism’s holy site, and to speak out against these violent
crimes. In particular, rabbis who oppose the Women of the Wall — especially Rabbi Shmuel
Rabinowitz, who heads The Western Wall Heritage Foundation — are obliged to call on their
supporters to respond with civility.
The CCAR remains unwavering in support of Women of the Wall and its aim to secure equal
rights for men and women of every stream of Judaism at our tradition’s most sacred place.
The CCAR wishes a Chodesh Tov to all who celebrated Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan with Women
of the Wall this morning, whether in person at the Kotel or in spirit from afar. The CCAR
wishes a hearty mazal tov to Sasha Lutt, one of the girls featured in the bus advertisements, who
became a Bat Mitzvah as she reads from a Torah Scroll at the Kotel this Rosh Chodesh.
Rabbi Richard A. Block
President, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Steven A. Fox
Chief Executive, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Reform Movement Responds to Kotel Plan – URJ

This is very important.  Sunday word of the Mandelblit Commission’s plan was leaked to the press. This was a commission appointed by PM Netanyahu in Israel to follow up on the grand compromise arrived at by Natan Sharansky, head of the Jewish Agency and Diaspora Jewish leaders on prayer at the Kotel, the symbol of Jewish Unity.  But the Mandelblit plan pushed forward by Cabinet member Naftali Bennett would decimate the grand Compromise achieved and the delicate balance.  Click below to see the unified Reform Movement Response… As a result of Reform Movement outcry and other groups-the Prime Minister announced that no conclusions have been reached.  Seems like a slight delay in announcing their plan.


Reform Movement Responds to Kotel Plan – URJ.

Reform Movement Applauds Decision of the 9th Circuit

Court Ruling Strikes Down Proposition 8 in Narrow Decision; Important Step Forward

Rabbis Rick Jacobs and Jonathan Stein: While the decision is narrow, it is nonetheless an important step forward in the achievement of marriage equality.

Contact: Sean Thibault or Noah Baron
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

Washington, D.C. February 7th, 2012 – In response to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Perry v. Brown challenging California’s Proposition 8, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Jonathan Stein, President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, issued the following statement:

“We commend the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. While the decision is narrow, it is nonetheless an important step forward in the achievement of marriage equality. As the purveyor of civil marriage, government should embrace an inclusive definition of marriage that establishes equality for all couples, regardless of the sex of the people involved.

“Our holy texts teach us that all people are created b’tselem Elohim (in the Divine image) (Gen. 1:27), and as such are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. We are inspired by our faith and history to stand up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans, for we have known the experience of being victims of group hatred, persecution, and discrimination. We feel a keen empathy for those who can still be victimized, deprived of opportunities, including the opportunity to marry, because of their identity.

“We welcome today’s ruling and move forward with renewed resolve as we work toward the day when all Americans will be able to marry the person that they love.”

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis. Visit http://www.rac.org for mor

Reflections on #CCAR11

Last week was intense.  I spent most of the week in New Orleans at the annual Central Conference of American Rabbis 122nd annual convention (#ccar11).  The best part of the convention is always seeing old friends.  Well they aren’t necessarily old but people I have known a long time.  The thing about rabbis is that our friendships are often long distance ones.  We serve pulpits and communities that are often far from one another.  Even when we work in the same geographical area or same city it is often difficult to see one another because the demands of rabbinic work life are intense. We work when others have down time!  Think about it. We are at temple on Shabbat and often on Sundays too.  So just as your weekend is beginning we are in Temple mode.  When you take some time to chill we are leading the Bar Mitzvah ceremony. When you go out on Saturday night we are leading the Havdalah discussion at a chavurah group.  When you go out to Sunday brunch or a hike we are teaching your children in Religious School.  When you go to the swap meet or antique-ing Sunday afternoon, we are meeting a wedding couple or officiating at a funeral.  When you are at a Sunday evening baseball game or hockey game or late afternoon basketball game we are with the youth group.

So rabbinic life is full and it makes it hard to maintain friendships and relationships.  And so conventions are precious moments for spending time with those who really understand the nature of our calling and people who know you for so many years.

That is what I deeply appreciate about the CCAR and my rabbinic classmates, teachers and friends.  I appreciate the understanding, shared values, commitment to Jewish life and the Jewish people and dare I say it–to God!

The workshops were great.  The speakers thoughtful and challenging.  The small group visioning got me thinking.  But the time spent with friends was priceless.