RAC-NJ's work was made possible with generous seed funding from the Michael & Alice Kuhn Foundation.

RAC-NJ launched in August of 2020 to bring our Reform Jewish values of wholeness, justice, and compassion to the Garden State. As a project of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, RAC-NJ seeks to organize across lines of difference to ensure that our Reform Jewish values, including pikuach nefeshpikuach nefeshפִּקּוּחַ נֶפֶשׁThe concept that saving a life overrides all other biblical commandments.  (saving lives), chesedChesedKindness  (compassion), and tzedektzedekצדקJustice  (justice), are included in policymaking as our state leaders work to build a more just and compassionate society for all New Jersey residents.

Learning Together Campaign

Latino Action Network v. State of New Jersey (LAN), a statewide school desegregation lawsuit currently pending in the New Jersey court system, asks the courts to hold that the state’s current public education system is unconstitutionally segregated. There is no doubt that by the numbers, New Jersey has some of the most segregated public schools in the country. If LAN wins the lawsuit, the court will work with the parties and communities to come up with a plan to diversify New Jersey’s public schools.

That means that right now, New Jersey social justice leaders have a window of opportunity to shape the narrative. If we do not take action to prepare our community for this decision now, state and national media will control a narrative about LAN that will be driven by fear, division, and harm. Such a narrative will lead parents and community members who fear loss to protest change by digging in their heels, fighting to maintain the status quo, and contributing to fear, division, and increasing racial and class tensions in communities across our state. 

As New Jersey sits on the cusp of a transformative moment, we can work together to play our part in helping to transform New Jersey to more closely reflect our vision of what a just society should look like. RAC-NJ is working with other social justice groups to prepare New Jersey families and communities to welcome, with curiosity and open minds, a chance to rethink the operation of New Jersey’s public schools. If we succeed, we can truly transform our state to prioritize ensuring that all New Jerseyans have access to high-quality, public education that prepares them for full participation in a multi-racial, multi-faith, multi-ethnic democratic republic.

Learn More About the Learning Together Campaign by Joining Our Tent Group

Democracy in a Day Campaign

RAC-NJ continues to support the work of our partners at New Jersey Institute for Social Justice League of Women Voters of New Jersey on their #DemocracyInADay Campaign to support passage of A1966/S247, a bill that, if enacted, would make New Jersey the 22nd state to implement same-day voter registration. The current voter registration deadline in New Jersey is 21 days before the election. This system unfairly impacts younger and lower economic communities, often Communities of Color. Same day voter registration would allow an eligible voter both to register to vote, and to cast a vote on the same day, removing barriers to the ballot and increasing access to the ballot for all voters.

Urge Your Legislators to Support Same Day Voter Registration


Ban the Box in Housing Campaign

In 2021, we won our Ban the Box in Housing Campaign with the passage of the Fair Chance in Housing Act. In partnership with Fair Share Housing Center, we mobilized our congregations, clergy, and lay leaders to pass legislation increasing access to safe and secure housing for formerly incarcerated individuals. New Jersey has the nation’s highest ratio of black-to-white incarceration, at more than 12 Black New Jerseyans incarcerated for every white New Jerseyan. Over 60% of New Jersey’s total prison population is Black, even though Black people make up only about 15% of the state’s total population. The Fair Chance in Housing Act requires most New Jersey residential landlords to remove questions regarding a potential tenant’s criminal history from initial applications for housing. This allows the potential tenant the opportunity to tell the landlord the person’s story of t’shuva – repair – instead of being rejected, sight unseen.

Every Voice Every Vote

In 2020, RAC-NJ’s Safeguarding Our Votes campaign reached over 400 New Jersey voters directly – and more who were trained by those voters – to teach people how to vote by mail in New Jersey. In 2022, RAC-NJ leaders organized congregations and congregants to collectively send more than 23,210 postcards to historically marginalized voters.

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About RAC-NJ

RAC-NJ launched in August of 2020 to bring our Reform Jewish values of wholeness, justice, and compassion to the Garden State. 

In addition to Ban the Box in Housing and our RAC-NJ’s 2021 Double Your Impact Civic Engagement Campaign, RAC-NJ continues to support the work of our partners at New Jersey Institute for Social Justice on their #DemocracyInADay Campaign to support passage of A4548/S2824, a bill that, if enacted, would make New Jersey the 22nd state to implement same-day voter registration. Similarly, RAC-NJ is a member of the Thrive-NJ Coalition, and supports the Coalition’s campaign to pass S3030/A4848, the Reproductive Freedom Act, into law. If enacted, the Reproductive Freedom Act will codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into New Jersey statute and ensure that New Jerseyans in need of reproductive health services including but not limited to abortion care will be able to access the care they need regardless of their financial resources or documentation status.  

RAC-NJ Leaders, Leadership Development, and Training

RAC-NJ is led by a Core Team of clergy and lay leaders from congregations located across New Jersey. RAC-NJ’s current Core Team members are: 

  • Rabbi Philip Bazeley of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick 
  • Lynn Chaiken of Temple Emeth in Teaneck 
  • Liz Cohen of Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough 
  • Gail Donner of Congregation Kol Ami in Cherry Hill 
  • Nilene Evans of Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge 
  • Brion Feinberg of Temple Shaari Emeth in Manalapan
  • Cantor Jacqueline Menaker of Shirat HaYam in Ventnor 
  • Rabbi Jordan Millstein of Temple Sinai of Bergen County in Tenafly
  • Melissa Pescatore, Reform Jewish Educator at Temple Shaari Emeth in Manalapan 
  • Rabbi Ethan Prosnit of Temple Emanu-El in Westfield 
  • Rabbi Leah Sternberg of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills 
  • Barbara Schwartz of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange 
  • Ann Thayer-Cohen of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick
  • Michele Zeldner of Congregation Kol Ami in Cherry Hill

RAC-NJ leaders also participate in its work through its research team, its campaign strategy teams, and congregational social justice teams working on RAC-NJ projects. 

Learn more about RAC-NJ’s Research and Issue Selection Process