Reform Jewish Women Vote!

September 25, 2018Elizabeth Leff

This post originally ran as a Women of Reform Judaism Strategies for Sisterhood Success newsletter item. 

In college, I was told a story that highlights the uniqueness of the Reform Jewish Movement. The story as I heard goes: a rabbi and her son were at a service in a synagogue that was not their own. The boy looked up at the rabbi leading the community. He then looked at the people in the seats surrounding him, he looked to his mother beside him, and back at the rabbi on the bimah. “Mom,” he whispered, eyes fixed on the rabbi in front of the congregation, “I didn’t know that men could be rabbis too.” Reform Jewish women have the power to shape their Jewish community and beyond because this Movement empowers those who claim it as their own to take part in appraising its past and building its future. If that doesn’t sound like democracy, I don’t know what does.

The Reform Movement calls upon its participants to be civically engaged, making a direct call to action to involve oneself in shaping our institutions to propel our world towards justice. The Pittsburgh Platform, the 1885 document that outlines the shift in the United States towards today’s Reform Jewish practice, states, “In full accordance with the spirit of the Mosaic legislation, which strives to regulate the relations between rich and poor, we deem it our duty to participate in the great task of modern times, to solve, on the basis of justice and righteousness, the problems presented by the contrasts and evils of the present organization of society.” This document, the foundation from which Reform Judaism came, demands a future in which Reform Jews fulfill their Jewish mandate to engage with their community. With this task comes the requirement to mobilize effectively, to work together as networked communities, and to achieve meaningful and impactful work.

The RAC’s Civic Engagement Campaign, of which Women of Reform Judaism is a strong partner, is a nonpartisan effort that brings the full force of the Movement to bear by empowering all people to exercise their right to vote and ensuring that Jewish voices are present in the public square. The campaign’s three pillars, voter engagement, candidate engagement, and ballot initiatives, have been identified as ways for congregations and Jewish communities to be civically involved that are inclusive and strategic. These three pillars grant access to the entire Reform Movement to be involved in this campaign, and they offer a flexibility of various levels of engagement that makes the most sense for each unique community.

Reform Jewish communities need tools, support, training, and access to the network of communities engaged in this work in order to have a meaningful impact. Here are ways that your sisterhood can utilize the RAC’s resources to be civically engaged moving into the fall:

The work of the Civic Engagement Campaign is more than a Jewish mandate; exercising the rights that women have worked so hard to access and keep secure is a Jewish imperative. Leveraging the strength of the women leading this Movement’s work is the way to continue shaping the world around us. The tasks and tools have been given, and the only thing left to do is to act powerfully together.

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