This is a 40 day+ march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C. The Central Conference of American Rabbis is partnering with the Religious Action Center, the NAACP and other African American civil rights groups to call attention to the systemic racism in our society. America’s Journey for Justice is focusing on restoring the Voting Act, jobs and education, the scourge of mass incarceration, police brutality and equality and liberty for all Americans. I was profoundly moved by my participation and that of my colleagues on the first day. I was honored to hold the Torah scroll brought from Chicago Sinai by my colleague, Rabbi Seth Limmer. Holding it in my arms as we crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge of Bloody Sunday infamy brought a welling up of tears at the holy work of bringing full equality that still lies before us.
These are the words I shared at the rally that started the Journey for Justice. I was honored to speak on behalf of our CCAR:
Good morning. I am here on our holiest day of the week the Sabbath, representing the over 2300 Reform Rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. As President of the oldest and largest rabbinical organization in North America, we who have come to pray and walk alongside our brothers and sisters commit not only to talking the talk of justice and righteousness but walking the walk. More than 150 rabbis from all over our country will join in this journey. We will be carrying with us a sacred scroll of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses that inspires our Jewish commitment to justice and equality and liberty.
As Rabbis of the CCAR, we pledge this day to stand with and work with and learn from you; to renew the historic Jewish – African American relationships and coalition that once worked together with ease. This is a new beginning.
We, rabbis and the Reform Jewish Movement pledge to work with you to end the culture of racism in our country. We pledge to work wholeheartedly to end mass incarceration in our country. We pledge to work tirelessly with you to give every child the education she deserves. We pledge to work to root out gun violence in every neighborhood and to fight for economic justice for every person and to secure voting rights for every American citizens.
God of All, bless those who march today and for the next 40 days. May our feet be swift, our dedication to Your ideals of Tzedek u’mishpat, righteousness and justice be strong. And lift us on eagles wings as You once did for the Children of Israel; so that we can bring about the glorious day when all shall eat at the table of liberty and the true Promise of America.
Rabbi Denise L. Eger is the founding Rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, CA and the President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.