One of the earliest lessons I learned as an advocate is the simple power of showing up. Last week, Reform Jews from across Massachusetts showed up in Boston in support of the ROE Act, a piece of legislation in Massachusetts intended to proactively protect and expand reproductive rights.
Last week, the ROE Act Coalition, which includes Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, ACLU of Massachusetts, and others, came together for an advocacy day in our state’s capitol with several hundred supporters. I was honored to speak on behalf of clergy in support of the bill prior to our lobby visits.
At a legislative briefing prior to meetings with our state reps and senators, I greeted new and familiar faces from members of Reform synagogues, Women of Reform Judaism, college students, and fellow clergy. I heard one consistent refrain: “I can’t believe you came all the way here from the Berkshires!”
For those unfamiliar with the geography of Massachusetts - Boston, the state capitol and seat of economic and political power, is on the eastern side of the state. The Berkshires, a beautiful scenic area known for hiking, arts, culture, and two of our URJ camps, is in the westernmost part of the state. My congregants from Temple Anshe Amunim of Pittsfield and I were some of the only folks who trekked two hours across the state that day.
After our lobby prep, we marched across Boston Common, a giant sea of pink, chanting, clapping, and gearing up for our meetings. Entering the halls of the State House, we broke off to take meetings with our elected officials from Berkshire County. At every office, we heard the same refrain - “I can’t believe you came all the way here! We NEVER see Berkshire folks in this office!”
Even though all of our legislators are already co-sponsors or have committed to vote to the legislation when it comes to the floor for a vote, we made an impact that day. As people of faith, as Reform Jews, and by taking the time to be present - we made an impression by simply showing up. I felt the power of showing up and standing up together when I shared these words with all those gathered from across the state:
In many faith traditions, we look to Abraham and Sarah as our leaders, as a patriarch and a matriarch for our religions. This week, in synagogues throughout Massachusetts and the entire world, Jewish communities will read several stories about Abraham and Sarah from the Bible.
We celebrate the unexpected joy of Sarah giving birth to a son, Isaac, at an advanced age. Just as people of faith celebrate life and childbirth, we also elevate health and justice for a woman experiencing a dangerous or unwanted pregnancy.
We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, Abraham and Sarah.
Just as we celebrate with Sarah, we stand here today as inheritors of Abraham’s ethic of social justice. In this same weekly reading, we find the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, two wicked cities that God plans to destroy - until Abraham questions God’s plan.
It’s an incredibly bold move - to stand up to God to save the lives of the innocent people who may yet be living among the bad actors in these places.
Today we take up Abraham and Sarah’s mantle - celebrating life and seeking justice.
We speak up even when it is uncomfortable, when we feel powerless.
We speak up and stand up together and we are here today to say that people of faith support the health, justice, and safety of women throughout our Commonwealth!
Together with the ROE Coalition and scores of other faith leaders, I am proud to be here today in support of the ROE Act.
Hazak v’ematz - may we go forward together with strength!
If you live in Massachusetts, you can show up, too, by writing to your state representatives and senators about why you support reproductive rights, and why we need them to pass the ROE Act and help make abortion access a reality for all Massachusetts residents, regardless of age, income, or insurance.
Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch serves Temple Anshe Amunim in Pittsfield, MA. Between college and rabbinical school, she was a Legislative Assistant at the RAC. She is a proud resident of the Berkshires with her husband, Rabbi Neil P.G. Hirsch, and their son, Lior.