From the Co-chair of our Social Action and Justice Committee
by Cantor Jason Kaufman
We can take enormous pride that the Jewish community, and in particular, the Reform Jewish Movement - through the Religious Action Center (RAC) - is a strong and steadfast voice in promoting a wide array of local and national social justice causes. The RAC is among the most respected religious and social justice organizations in Washington, DC.
I feel particularly honored to represent the American Conference of Cantors, alongside Rosalie Toubes, on the Reform Movement's Commission on Social Action (CSA). "The Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism is a joint body of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Union and its affiliates that seeks to apply the insights of Jewish tradition to such domestic and foreign issues as human rights, world peace, civil liberties, religious freedom, famine, poverty, inter-group relations, as well as other major societal concerns. The CSA interprets these policies as necessary to speak to current issues and legislation, and develops the foundation for new resolutions to be adopted by the Union or the CCAR in the future." For more information about the CSA please visit www.RAC.org/CSA.
I attend the spring and fall gatherings of the CSA where we discussed, and reached decisions on a variety of our movement's social policy issues. Agenda items included gun safety measures, comprehensive immigration reform, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, voting rights, and a resolution supporting full societal inclusion for all transgender individuals. I am consistently impressed with the level and depth of the debate and conversation at these meetings, and feel grateful for the many professional relationships and friendships that I have developed within this holy community. No matter what my personal stance on a particular issue that is discussed within the CSA may be, I always learn something new from the different opinions expressed within the debate and dialogue.
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from the work of the Religious Action Center is the importance of creating coalitional partnerships across all political and religious institutions to bridge ideological divides by finding common ground issues of importance to work on together. As a functioning body, the CSA has no political affiliations and remains non-partisan. Our values as clergy have no political affiliation as well. The issues that are important to us remain constant, though the political players around us may change. Therefore, while we may not agree with a certain community, religious organization, or political party in every instance, it is incumbent upon us to find the places where we do agree, so that we may combine our resources, coordinate our strategies, and advocate based on our shared values.
There are many ways that Cantors can become increasingly more involved with the activities of the Religious Action Center. We can:
- Encourage our congregants to attend RAC conferences, whether it is the L'Taken weekend long program for high school students, or sending a delegation of lay leaders to the "Consultation on Conscience" conference (April 26-28, 2015 in DC).
- Visit the RAC's website (www.rac.org) for frequent updates and to learn about ways we can get involved in the initiatives our Movement is engaged with. The website is also a valuable resource for social justice liturgy that can enhance our tefilah experiences. You can also follow the RAC on Facebook, Twitter, Linked in, and sign up to join RAC news.
- Speak about relevant social justice issues from the bima, and in our temple newsletters.
- Guide the "mitzvah projects" of our B'nei Mitzvah students so that our students develop a deep connection and commitment to be social justice advocates throughout their lives.
- Contact the RAC, introduce yourself, and ask how you can get involved.
- When deciding where to allocate personal and discretionary funds towards charitable giving, consider making a gift to the RAC.
I am profoundly grateful to the American Conference of Cantors for giving me this opportunity to serve as a member of the CSA. I hope to represent our organization well and will look to facilitate more opportunities for partnering our organizations in the years to come.