January 11, 2022 - In response to President Biden’s speech this afternoon re-affirming his commitment to voting rights and to changing Senate filibuster rules if necessary to pass critical voting rights legislation, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued this statement on behalf of the wider Reform movement institutions:
“We are grateful for the administration’s re-affirmation of support for pivotal legislation that will end discriminatory voting practices and allow every voice to be heard, and every vote to be counted. Now, it is time for the White House to turn their words into action and use their full power to compel the Senate to enact filibuster reform to ensure the passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Jewish tradition teaches us that the selection of leaders is not a privilege but a collective responsibility. Rabbi Yitzchak taught that “a ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (Babylonian Talmud, B’rachot 55a). Jewish tradition also celebrates the meaningful exchange of ideas and respect for minority viewpoints. The Talmud even goes so far as to preserve the opposing and minority opinions in its text, alongside the consensus viewpoint. In keeping with the insight of these teachings, it is the duty of those who cherish democracy to ensure that all Americans are afforded the opportunity to have their votes counted.
We turn our attention to the Senate and renew our call to senators to make reforms to restore themselves as a functioning legislative body. Despite the record turnout for the 2020 election, state elected officials have introduced over 440 restrictive voting laws in the last year. The only way to prevent further discrimination that disproportionately affects People of Color, poor people, language minorities, disabled individuals, and young and elderly voters, is through the passage of federal legislation to expand voting rights for all Americans. The obstructionist tactic of the filibuster can no longer prevent these bills from moving forward. This outdated rule has been reformed over 160 times in modern history, and must be reformed once again to prevent the Senate from upholding systemic racism and white supremacy. We are entrusting our elected officials to work for the people they represent by enacting filibuster reform and passage of these two bills.”