The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
I was listening to a political podcast while running along the beach in Tel Aviv a few weeks ago. The hosts were imploring listeners to do everything possible to save health care. This was the critical time to get involved, to make phone calls, to lobby, to show up. I was thrilled to be leading a congregational trip in Israel, but I felt powerless, unable to get involved in this round of the fight. I felt ashamed that in the United States, a country with such wealth and abundance, our democratically elected representatives sought to pass a bill that would harm the most vulnerable in our society. The more I learned about the people who would be primarily impacted -- the disabled, the poor, young children, women -- the more I worried for the soul of our country.
Soon after returning to DC, I was grateful to have the opportunity to attend the “March to Save Medicaid, Save Lives.” I joined fellow clergy as we sang our way to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner led us off with the blast of the shofar. Rev. William J. Barber II marched at the front of the line of clergy, his booming voice guiding us in chants and songs. We assembled outside of Sen. McConnell’s office for songs and testimony. Soon, we were told to disperse by Capitol Police, and those who were not getting arrested were sent to the end of the hall. Rev. Barber and the other clergy members who were prepared to be arrested remained in the hallway singing. We hummed along in solidarity, trying to see over the press that had gathered. Rev. Barber and 10 others were arrested in the name of spreading a moral message.
And our message was clear to every hill staffer, journalist, and person reading or watching the news about the protest. A community of clergy adorned in colorful stoles and robes and head coverings, representing diverse faiths, came together to speak with a unified moral voice. We spoke with a voice grounded in religious principles that transcend this moment or this issue. We came to speak for the poor, the fatherless, the widow, the orphan -- just as each of our holy books demand.
Rabbi Hannah Goldstein is an associate rabbi at Temple Sinai in Washington, DC.