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Can politics be a holy activity?

Can politics be a holy activity?


Tuesday, August 22, 2017 was Reform CA Lobby Day, a project of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. 100 social justice activists and organizers from Reform congregations all over California converged on the state capitol to advocate for justice in our state.  We had four goals:

  1. To connect with one another and Reform CA
  2. To present ourselves powerfully to President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate, Kevin de León
  3. To train in lobbying and political action, first by learning and then by doing
  4. To help pass our two priority bills:
    1. California Values Act (SB 54), which prevents the use of California state and local public resources to aid federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
    2. Money Bail Reform Act (SB-10), which ensures that people are not held in pretrial detention (jail) simply because of their inability to pay bail. This bill would require that a pretrial services agency conduct a risk assessment and prepare a report that makes recommendations on conditions of release for the accused pretrial

Our dialogue with Senate leader de León was both inspirational and educational. Senator de León us that this is our state capitol, a place where we are welcome and should feel ownership as we engage with our elected officials. He explained the opposition to our bills without demonizing anyone holding opposing views. He affirmed our insistence on our Jewish values, and finished his presentation by saying:

“For those who have been bullied or demeaned, know that the great State of California will stand behind each and every one of you.”

While we ate lunch, our congregational teams met to plan our two lobbying visits. Appointments had already been set up for us; all we needed to do was show up and engage!

As we walked into the offices of Representatives and Senators, our nervousness dropped away. We discovered the truth of what Senator de León said in the morning: this statehouse is our statehouse. Our elected officials and their staff are glad to meet with us, for we are the people who sent them to Sacramento.

We told them what matters to our Jewish hearts, about our desire for a California that is a good and just place for all people. As we spoke and listened, as they spoke and listened, politics became personal. And a miracle: politics became holy.

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu lirdof tzedek.

We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, who calls us to holiness through mitzvot, commanding us to pursue tzedek, justice.

Rabbi Ruth Adar is passionate about making the wisdom of Judaism accessible to beginners from all backgrounds through teaching and home hospitality. She holds a B.A. in economics from the University of Tennessee, an M.A. in religious studies from the University of Chicago, and an M.A. in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. She is a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Rabbi Adar blogs at Coffee Shop Rabbi.

Rabbi Ruth Adar

Published: 9/04/2017