The Urgency of Now: Actions for the New Political Landscape

Inside Leadership

The Urgency of Now: Actions for the New Political Landscape

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner at the podium

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 the values that are central to our Movement 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, our congregations, and our Reform Movement act in ways that are nonpartisan, principled, Jewishly-inspired, and universally applicable?

Our Members

There are several ways every Reform Jew can act now, even as we’re developing long-term strategies.

Our Congregations and Communities

Our congregations are the epicenter of community, prayer, and power within the Reform Movement. Their actions strengthen our community and raise our collective voice, making it critical that they act now.

  • Sign up for The Urgency of Now: The Reform Movement Mobilizes to Meet the Challenges Facing Our Nation, a training webinar on Friday, December 16 at 12 p.m. ET, the first in a series of webinars to help congregations take effective action to build local bridges and stand up for our values as we navigate the path forward.
  • If your congregation is already in a relationship with a church, mosque, or other house of worship, deepen that relationship. If you don’t have such a relationship already, begin building it now. Be ready to stand with your neighbors in their time of need, and ask them to stand with you when difficult times arise.
  • Remember, too, to build or reinforce relationships with local, state and national elected officials.
  • Create an action plan using Speak Truth to Power: A Guide for Synagogues Taking Public Policy Positions as a resource so you will be ready to respond when proposed legislation or nominees contradict our core principles.
  • Bring a congregational delegation to Consultation on Conscience to help strengthen the Jewish community’s power as change agents. Members also will strengthen their social justice efforts, deeply connect with one another, and network with allies.

Our Movement

The Reform Movement 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 Reform Movement – 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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Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner represents the Reform Movement to Congress and the administration as the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He also serves as the senior vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Named one of the most influential rabbis in America, he has been an inspirational leader, creative entrepreneur, and tireless advocate for social justice.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner
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