The Religious Action Center and Its Operation

46th General Assembly
November 1961
Washington, D.C.

We are the inheritors of the great Jewish religious tradition which has as its ultimate goal the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The God whom we serve is a God of righteousness who would have us be holy as He is holy. The Torah we cherish is a comprehensive guide for spiritual living concerned with every aspect of human behavior. The prophets of Israel, dedicated to God and their fellow men, bade us pursue justice, seek peace and establish brotherhood and loving kindness among all of God's creatures.

Judaism commands constant application of the sharp ethical insights of the prophets to the specific social problems of our time, as well as to our daily lives. Since its inception in l873, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations has been committed to the mission of building a society based on social justice and divine mercy.

To effectuate these religious aims, the UAHC joined with the CCAR in l949 in establishing a Commission on Social Action, which relates the ethical and spiritual teachings of our faith to the concrete problems of our congregations, our communities, our country and the world. The Commission on Social Action, now a joint instrumentality of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods and Brotherhoods and Youth, has urged the creation and development of social action (or community affairs) committees which now exist in some 300 Reform synagogues.

To strengthen our social action program, the 45th General Assembly of the UAHC, meeting in Miami Beach in November, l959, voted overwhelmingly to accept the generous gift of Mr. and Mrs. Kivie Kaplan to provide for a Center for Religious Action in Washington, D.C.

Many Christian groups, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, have long maintained social action offices in the nation's capital. These bodies have hailed the establishment of our Center as an opportunity to consult and cooperate in Washington with their counterparts in the Jewish religious agencies on the great moral issues which face the nation and the world.

The 46th General Assembly of the UAHC herewith declares:

  1. We commend the Commission on Social Action for its creative programming, for providing moral leadership and guidance to the Reform movement, and for strengthening the hands of the rabbis in quickening the social idealism of Reform Jews.
  2. We urge that the decision of the 45th General Assembly of the UAHC in November l959, concerning the establishment of a Center for Religious Action, be carried into effect as promptly as possible.
  3. To assure the increasing effectiveness of the social action program and, at the same time, to continue to safeguard congregational autonomy and the right of dissent, we affirm these guiding principles:
    1. The Center for Religious Action is an agency of the Commission on Social Action and is to function under the direct supervision and control of the Commission on Social Action.
    2. The Commission on Social Action, heretofore, will concern itself with those subjects which fall within the scope of resolutions adopted by both the General Assembly of the UAHC and the Convention of the CCAR. Statements will be made in the name of the Commission and not in the name of the Center for Religious Action.
    3. Public statements shall reflect points of view and programs adopted by a majority of the delegates of Reform synagogues at biennial assemblies of the UAHC. Such pronouncements, resolutions and other actions of the general assemblies have, in the nature of the case, the status and weight of being neither more nor less than the corporate decisions of such a representative assembly. They are useful to the extent that they serve as a moral guide to our congregations and their members, to the nation and to the world. Such statements speak for the UAHC. They are not binding upon every Reform synagogue, each of which is autonomous, or upon every member of a Reform congregation. Every congregant and every member has the right and the duty to express conscientious dissent within the framework of our common commitment to Reform Judaism and to one another.
  4. Social Action will succeed to the extent that in our synagogues, individually and collectively, we have the understanding and the daring to make Judaism relevant to the great issues of our time.

We therefore, call upon every Reform synagogue which has not yet done so, to create speedily a Committee on Social Action or Community Affairs. The historic imperatives of our faith, the insistent moral challenge of the contemporary world and the ethical commitments of our own beloved America-all combine with fresh urgency to enjoin us "to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God."

  1. In order to implement and amplify these principles, be it resolved that:
    1. The Religious Action Center shall service the social action committees of the UAHC congregations, its national affiliates, federations and regional councils, along with their rabbis, sisterhoods, brotherhoods, youth groups, educators and administrators.
    2. The service generally shall consist of furnishing informational materials about subjects best researched in Washington; suggestions regarding education of and action which might be taken by, local, regional and national social action committees; sponsor seminar workshops, pilgrimages and gatherings for youth and adult leaders of Reform synagogue bodies; establish and maintain a library. As occasion may require, representatives may appear before congressional committees or other governmental bodies, but, in such event, only in the name of the Commission on Social Action and subject to all other regulations governing the Religious Action Center and the Commission on Social Action. The foregoing shall not be considered to exclude other undertakings within the purview of actions taken by both the UAHC biennials and the conference of the CCAR.
    3. (1) There shall be established an Advisory Committee of six persons, which Committee shall be charged with the responsibility of counseling and guiding the staff of the Center in connection with its operations. The said Committee shall be a subcommittee of the Joint Commission on Social Action. Three of the members of said Committee shall represent the UAHC and their appointments shall be by the Chairman of the Board of the UAHC, and three of the members shall represent the CCAR and their appointments shall be by the President of the CCAR.

      (2) The Advisory Committee will counsel with, and advise, the director in developing the program of the Center. In connection with testimony before congressional committees or governmental departments where a public record is to be made, the director of the Center shall consult with the Advisory Committee, except that in the case of emergencies consultation with the Chairman shall be deemed sufficient.

      (3) Public pronouncements shall be made only in the name of the Commission on Social Action of the Union and the Central Conference, and shall be confined to resolutions previously adopted by or actions taken at both the UAHC biennials and the CCAR conventions.

It is the confident belief of this 46th General Assembly of the UAHC that these principles will enable the Commission on Social Action and its Washington Center to make an even greater contribution to Reform Judaism, to America and to our sacred mission.