The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
The legislative assistant offices at the RAC have a strange feel to them today—all of the zany pictures and decorations adorning our desks have been removed, the usual desktop clutter has vanished and there is a strong scent of cleaning solution flowing through the air. After 50 weeks at the RAC, it’s our last day, and an opportunity for us to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve witnessed during our time here.
Over the course of the year, we’ve written hundreds of blogs, submitted testimony to Congress, lobbied on Capitol Hill, taught thousands of teens, and worked with coalition partners to bend the moral arc of the universe a bit more towards justice. Our year has seen some major milestones: we made it through elections in the United States, Israel and the World Zionist Congress (and scored great victories for working families in Nebraska and Massachusetts on Election Day); celebrated major executive actions that President Obama took on immigration and climate change; analyzed a nuclear agreement with Iran; commemorated the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma; mourned the deaths of nine churchgoers in Charleston; welcomed the groundbreaking, new Equality Act for LGBT rights; helped win bipartisan support for pregnant workers’ rights; and, of course, rejoiced as marriage equality became the law of the land.
With bittersweet feelings, we marked the departure of Rabbi David Saperstein as RAC Director and welcomed in Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner as our new Director. As we move onto new places in our lives, we’ll always cherish the opportunity we have had to advocate on behalf of our values, as well as the countless lessons we learned in how to be better advocates, better co-workers, and better Jews. The staff at the RAC is nothing short of excellent, and we owe so much of our growth over the past year to them.
This Shabbat, we read from the Torah portion, Eikev, which contains a passage we find very pertinent. We read:
When you have eaten your fill, and have built fine houses to live in, and your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold have increased, and everything you own has prospered, beware lest your heart grow haughty and you forget Adonai your God—who freed you from Egypt, the house of bondage; who led you through the great and terrible wilderness with its seraph serpents and scorpions, a parched land with no water in it, who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your ancestors had never known, in order to test you by hardships only to benefit you in the end—and you say to yourselves, “My own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me.” (Deuteronomy 8:12-17)
We can only hope that the next stages of our lives should be so prosperous, but we know for sure that the RAC has led us through the young professional wilderness, teaching us the water of wisdom and the manna of justice. This year has not come without its share of hardships, but they have strengthened us in the end.
This transition also serves as a calling, a reminder that pursuing justice requires not only mercy and compassion, but also humility. We reject the arrogance of those who say that their wealth comes from their power and might alone. Recognizing that the stark inequalities in our society can have great effects on the opportunities provided to us, we must fight for all to have the opportunity of all to live lives of prosperity.
The new Legislative Assistants begin their fellowship later this month, we’ll enjoy watching them take over our portfolios from afar and wish them the best of luck. In the meantime, we encourage them to take a deep breath and catch up on sleep. It’s going to be a great year.
Claire, Jonathan, Jordan, Liya, Melanie and Rachel