The Work in Process: RAC Day of Action 2023

May 19, 2023Jordan Wade

“God created the world in a state of beginning. The universe is always in an uncompleted state, in the form of its beginning. It is not like a vessel at which the master works to finish it; it requires continuous labor and renewal by creative forces. Should these cease for only a second, the universe would return to primeval chaos.” - Reb Simcha Bunam of Przysucha, Siach Sarfei Kodesh, 2:17.

After a day of climate action lobbying with the Religious Action Center (RAC) on Capitol Hill, I found myself staring at a small patch of purple flowers planted between the sidewalk and the street. It was an adrenaline-fueled day, and the jarring contrast of these tall, weedy pops of color against the street traffic and brutalist architecture compelled me to pause, then cry.

If you’ve ever come across process theology, I’m pretty sure this is what it’s talking about. God is not understood as an omnipotent being, but as an experience, a process of continuous creation and change. That afternoon, the process of divinity flowed through me amidst the fossil fuel fumes and a patch of weeds.

On May 10, 2023, I took a break from my Jewish professional job and traveled to my first RAC Day of Action in Washington, D.C. At check-in, things appeared as you would expect: nametags, buffet tables, large conference rooms with questionable carpet designs, and an intergenerational mix of Jews from around the country. When the cantors launched into the “Ya da dais” of classic niggunim (wordless melodies) from the stage, we were off and running.

I’m a queer Jew from the South, and I don’t know how else to say it--the plenary speakers took us to church! I went from slouching in my chair to sitting straight up, ready to march when LaTosha Brown gave the word. I took notes on Ben Jealous’s intersectional theory of change and observed the significant relational connections between our rabbis and these incredible organizers. Years of deep work were apparent in that room; I left that evening grateful to everyone who came before me to make our coalitions possible.

Thursday morning was lobby day and my wife dropped me off at the Capitol. As I got out of the car, she asked me if I knew where I was going. I looked up and said, “not really, but I think that long line of kippot should point me in the right direction.” Sure enough, the RAC bus from the hotel had just unloaded and I followed our people across the Capitol grounds, through security, and into our morning meeting room.

To activate us for the work ahead, we were inspired by Rev. Raphael Warnock, Rep. Ro Khanna, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and other influential congresspeople. Hearing their passion for the work and seeing their continued commitment to the process was energizing. Each speaker led with their “why.” Whether it was a belief in God, humanity, democracy, or the potential for change, each person had their feet firmly rooted in a narrative that could drive them on their worst days.

And just like that, the moment for us to take action in this incomplete world arrived. For the next several hours, I navigated the Senate and House office buildings with my small cohort from North Carolina. In the office of Senator Thom Tillis, we lobbied a young staffer under the watchful gaze of a taxidermic possum. Later, my colleague and I visited the offices of House Representative Valerie Foushee, where our formal lobby meeting turned into a casual and fun conversation about North Carolina experiences and our shared commitment to a healthy climate future.

By 2:00, the whirlwind lobby experience was finished. It had been another day of Jewish work for me, but one that disrupted the stagnant aspects of congregational maintenance and instead offered a sense of creation. This work gave me room to bring another part of my Jewishness into the conversation, and I reflected on the fullness of the experience as I walked toward my bus stop.

A few blocks later, I stopped to look at some flowers and an energetic wave moved through me. Buoyed by every unique experience it took to get me here, I cried. With my tears, I released the tension in my body created by the fear of climate catastrophe, I released the general powerlessness and anger that I often feel, and I allowed the sadness to linger. With that same pause I breathed in a deep sense of gratitude for the work I accomplished, I breathed in the inspiring energy my community so generously shared, and I noticed the rekindling of hope, often absent in my heart.

In that moment of becoming, I acknowledged that in order to persist in the “continuous labor” of tikkun olam and Jewish imagining, I need spiritual grounding, spiritual community, and “renewal by creative forces.” For 36 hours in Washington D.C., the RAC reminded me of that need, offered me that ground, and renewed my spirit. Together, we created a brilliant “state of beginning.”

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