What's New at the 2019 Consultation on Conscience

April 24, 2019Sofi Hersher

The world is changing, so the Consultation on Conscience is, too.

This year’s Consultation on Conscience – the Reform Movement’s flagship social justice conference – will be the largest in history, welcoming more than 1,000 Reform Jewish social justice leaders from congregations and communities across North America.

We believe in the power and momentum that our Movement can harness when we come together in a single place for a shared cause. That’s why this Consultation will focus on helping social justice leaders building their skills and networks so they can then drive meaningful, coordinated change upon returning to their home communities.

In 2019, we’re introducing several programmatic innovations designed to meet the evolving needs of those who pursue justice in their congregations, cities, states/provinces, and beyond - but we’re not changing everything. As in the past, attendees (and those watching from home) will continue to gather in plenary sessions to hear from prominent social justice leaders and experts. This year’s featured speakers include voting rights activist Desmond Meade (recently named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People), Rev. Dr. Al Sharpton, Elias Rosenfeld, Sister Norma Pimentel who serves as director of Catholic Charities for the Rio Grande Valley, and Matt Deitsch, chief strategy officer for March For Our Lives.

Read on to learn what else is on the docket – including new and exciting developments – for this year’s Consultation of Conscience.

Offering New Delegation Coaching

For the first time, we’re offering coaching sessions for congregational and communal Delegations at the Consultation on Conscience.

Delegations can sign up to meet with RAC staff and key RAC leaders to celebrate the successes or workshop the challenges that congregations face in doing meaningful social justice work. These Delegations will also receive specialized resources to help them advance their justice work when they return home from Washington.

Learn more about the Delegation experience.

Placing a Strong Emphasis on Student Leadership

In congregations across the Reform Movement, many of our most passionate social justice advocates have not yet finished school. In 2019, we’re thrilled to welcome more than 25 Jewish student leaders as full participants in all Consultation programming.

We know that our students are not the leaders of tomorrow – they are the leaders of today – so you’ll find no “youth track” here. Serving as examples to all of our justice leaders, student facilitators will lead workshops, and student activists will address more than 1,000 attendees in our Monday afternoon plenary session.

In the evenings, optional social activities and opportunities to debrief in specialized cohorts will be available to youth participants.

Hear why one former NFTYite is excited to attend the Consultation on Conscience in 2019.

Launching Our Ambassador Program

This year, Consultation on Conscience will join NFTY Convention and the URJ Biennial in offering college-aged students the opportunity to deepen their connection to the Reform Movement’s social justice work and grow as leaders by helping to staff our event.

These ambassadors will work alongside RAC staff to ensure that Consultation runs smoothly, including acting as mentors and role models for high school students in attendance. Ambassadors will also participate in much of our conference programming, furthering their own leadership development.

Know a college-aged student looking for additional social justice leadership opportunities? Check out the RAC’s new Gun Violence Prevention Network and Learning Fellowship.

Welcoming the JewV’Nation Fellowship’s Jews of Color Leadership Cohort

In 2018, the URJ launched the JewV’Nation Fellowship’s Jews of Color Leadership Cohort, bringing together 16 Jewish leaders cutting-edge seminars that focus on identity enrichment, professional and leadership development, Jewish learning, movement-building, mentorship, risk-taking, and project work.

In 2019, we will welcome 10 fellows to the Consultation on Conscience as thought partners and leaders. Members of the cohort will lead workshops (including one titled “Jews of Color: What We Experience in Mostly Ashkenazi/White Congregations”), moderate discussions, and participate in conversations with Movement leadership.

Learn more about the members of the JewV’Nation Fellowship’s Jews of Color Leadership Cohort.

Introducing The Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus Initiative for Immigrant and Refugee Justice

The challenges of today’s urgent immigration and refugee crisis are among the highest priority issues for Reform Jewish advocacy and activism. During this year’s Consultation on Conscience, the URJ will proudly introduce the Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus Initiative for Immigrant and Refugee Justice, which will provide a framework to activate greater action across the Reform Movement.

Eighty years ago, in 1939, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus were private citizens in the Philadelphia Jewish community who rescued 50 Jewish children before World War II broke out. They followed their consciences to Austria and Germany to rescue the largest group of unaccompanied minors brought to the United States in the lead up to World War II. This new initiative seeks to galvanize people to action in the current immigration and refugee crisis in the United States. Consultation attendees will learn more about Immigration Justice in a Time of Moral Crisis from the Kraus Initiative’s Director of Immigrant Justice, Dr. Julia Paley.

Offering Livestreaming and Captioning

We know that many congregational and communal social justice leaders are not able to join us in Washington, D.C. Some are unable to step away from their everyday commitments as parents, employees, activists, caregivers, etc.; for others, the cost or travel presents difficulties, or health concerns present an impossibility.

We recognize the important contribution of these leaders and want to ensure that the lessons and conversations of the Consultation on Conscience are as accessible as possible to those following along from home. To this end, we will be livestreaming all of our plenary sessions on the RAC website (with a special thanks to StreamSpot for making this possible) with accompanying real-time captioning. Several key moments will also stream via Facebook Live.

Follow the RAC on Facebook for alerts before we go live, or check out our livestreaming schedule at rac.org/livestream.


Are there new and interesting ideas we should consider for 2021? Email us at rac@rac.org.

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