Commission on Social Action Meeting Recap

May 25, 2023Betsey Hurwitz-Schwab

WOW! I have just attended my first in-person Commission on Social Action (CSA) meeting. I have attended several meetings on Zoom, but it is different in person. There were many expert speakers who came in to talk with the group. The topics were serious but enlightening.

Let me start at the beginning. The CSA has put forth resolutions on many social justice issues adopted by the full Union of Reform Judaism (URJ). These resolutions can sometimes take years to craft. Much research, conversation, and deep thought go into these resolutions. All are guided by Jewish values. At the meeting on May 10, the Reparations Task Force reminded the group that their resolution passed in 2019. The resolution “supports the study and development of reparations for slavery and systemic racism.”  While the resolution has been accepted by the URJ, a toolkit needs to be rolled out to congregations, giving them a guide on how to address these issues in their communities. Other resolutions being researched and written by other CSA task forces include a resolution regarding indigenous peoples and a plan for the divestment of URJ funds in fossil fuel funds. During lunch, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the URJ, gave an update on the current situation in Israel.

There were two presentations during the day by experts in their fields. For me, these presentations were both enlightening and disturbing. The first presentation was on White Christian Nationalism. Speakers included: Rachel Laser, President and CEO of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State; Robert Jones, President and Founder of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI); and Wajahat Ali, speaker, writer, and author of “Go back to where you came from, you terrorist!” There were many statements that resonated with me. Rachel Laser stated that White Christian Nationalism is threatening our lives, our equality, our reproductive freedom, our democracy, and our values. We deserve “Freedom without favor and equality without exception.” Robert Jones has found a correlation between church attendance and Christian Nationalism. In a study he conducted, he found that 40% of the people surveyed felt that U.S. laws should be based on Christian values. Wajahat Ali said that one-third of Americans believe in some form of replacement theory.

The second presentation, by Sharon Goldtzvik, Founder and CEO of Uprise, was on antisemitism messaging. Her assertion is that we must stop talking about antisemitism using a water or virus metaphor. She used metaphors like “The rising tide of antisemitism…,” or “Antisemitism has different mutations.” These metaphors suggest antisemitism is a “natural” thing that cannot be controlled. She contends that we need to change the language to understand that we can exert control over antisemitism. Statements such as, “We must dismantle antisemitism and all of the machinery…,” or “Antisemitism Is used to manufacture division…,” can help us exercise control over antisemitism. 

I have not mentioned all the people who spoke during the day. There is so much to process!  I hope that all the presentations will be available in Yammer so that I can go back and review them and really spend time studying all that was said. The CSA tackles many issues of social justice. I am glad to be a member!

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