In these contentious and often dispiriting times, many people experience a dichotomy between spiritual practice/renewal and social justice activism. Earlier this afternoon, I listened in on a webinar organized by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality on integrating Jewish spiritual practice with the pursuit of justice. The guest speaker was Rabbi Elliot Tepperman of Congregation B’nai Keshet in Montclair, NJ. It was a worthwhile session and Rabbi Tepperman is doing great work.
We’re doing pretty well here at Temple Israel, but we can always do better in living up to our reputation as one of Miami’s most social-justice-oriented synagogues. Our recent and ongoing effort to obtain signatures to restore voting rights to former felons has been somewhat successful.
I have spoken about it on several occasions and it was the focus of our Yom Kippur “Social Justice Hour.” My goal has been to obtain 300 signatures. Currently, we have around 270, with much help from a few dedicated volunteers (Ted Weinreich and Richard Milstein.) If you haven’t signed the petition yet, let me know and I can email it to you. Each signature must be on a special form that includes your address. You can easily complete, scan and email it back to me.
There are a few other causes for which I am trying to rally support. One is the passing of the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017, S.1615 in the Senate and H.R.3440 in the House. The current administration’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would throw the lives of nearly 800,000 recipients into uncertainty. It is important for us as Jews, given our history, that Congress pass the Dream Act to provide permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who came to the country at a young age.
Fortunately, we are joined by millions of Americans who are urging lawmakers to pass the Dream Act. The Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center (RAC) is asking all Reform congregations to dedicate this coming Shabbat to Immigrant Justice. My sermon tomorrow evening will be on this topic.
On Monday (11/6), Reform Jews around the country will be calling elected officials in their states and districts to make their support for the Dream Act known. I will share more information about this tomorrow. You can also send targeted email messages to your Senators and Representatives via this RAC webpage.
Jewish tradition is clear on the treatment of immigrants. Our faith demands of us concern for the stranger in our midst. Now is the time to turn our values into action, and to ensure that justice for our country’s most vulnerable is neither delayed nor denied. This may not happen without our engagement.
We have an opportunity to harness our collective power, innovate within our Movement and demonstrate the depth of our commitment to social justice. When we act together, we move one step closer to building the world we want-one filled with wholeness, justice, and compassion.
I look forward to celebrating our “Dream Shabbat” with you tomorrow. Come at 6:00 p.m. for dinner (reservations are required) and stay for the special blessings to be extended to those celebrating a birthday or anniversary in November.
R’ Moshe Tom