fbpx Crisis Response | Reconstructing Judaism

Statement on Recent Acts of Violence


Logos of RRC and RRA


The leadership of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association extend our heartfelt condolences and prayers to the victims and families of the frightening acts of violence that have shaken several of our cities this weekend. Our grief and concern extend throughout St. Cloud, MN, Seaside, NJ, the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC, and in Philadelphia, where innocent people have been targeted and killed or injured, and law enforcement personnel and other first responders have heroically saved lives. As investigators seek information about motives, including possible links to terrorism, we pray for the strength to support our neighbors in need, and for the wisdom to work even harder for a just and peaceful world.

Interfaith Letter Against Utility Shutoffs



Reconstructing Judaism joined a letter signed by over 500 faith leaders and organizations, urging a national moratorium on water, electricity, and broadband shutoffs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Standing Up for Racial Justice and Against Racial Violence


Reconstructing Judaism and Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association logos


Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) mourn the death of George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police last week. As our hearts are broken yet again by the images and stories of the unjustifiable loss of innocent black and brown lives at the hands of law enforcement, the words of the psalmist ring bitterly familiar: “ad matai — how long will this go on?! … How long will you feed your people tears as their daily bread, making them drink great measures of tears?” (Psalm 80:5-6).  This injustice is not just the fault of a few bad cops but of a badly broken policing system. 

On Erev Shavuot, we disseminated a special el maleh rachamim” memorial prayer for victims of racial violence to be recited during the yizkor service. How many holidays must we continue to add names to our list of martyrs of racial injustice? We will not stop remembering Eric Garner, Philando Castille, Mike Brown, Alton Sterling, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, Delrawn Small, Sandra Bland and now George Floyd, along with too many others. 

The blatant display of systemic racism that we all saw in the horrible murder of George Floyd hits all of us differently depending on our own race and life experience. But it is clear that these events have exposed a basic truth about our country. White supremacy is built into the fabric of American society, and the deep anger that is being expressed all around us has been festering for decades, if not centuries. This is one of the many reasons that our Tikkun Olam Commission, a joint venture of Reconstructing Judaism and the RRA, has recently committed to working on racial justice. 

We must dismantle white supremacy now if we are to have any chance at building a more just and equitable world for all people. For all people - because we are committed to the core Jewish value that all people are created betzelem elokim — in the image of the divine —  and are therefore equally deserving of full human dignity and safety. But also specifically for our people — the Jews of Color within the Reconstructionist movement and beyond who face the oppression, pain, and fear of living under white supremacy every day.  We must redouble our efforts to ensure that our Jewish communities provide a safe, supportive, loving and empowering haven for all of us, most especially Jews of Color. We lift up these words from Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) student May Ye, with the kavanah (intention) of re-dedicating ourselves to the well-being of Jews of Color and all People of Color in our communities:

“To my black and brown siblings, your lives matter. You deserve to breathe - to breathe air that is not flooded with tear gas in a time when poor and working class, black and brown, elderly and incarcerated people are being hit the worst by a respiratory virus. You deserve to breathe clean air. You deserve to breathe in safety and in peace. Breath is a human right, it is a right of existence. Breath is not something that anyone should need to deserve. Your life and your breath matters and I will do everything in my power, engage my people and my elected officials to do everything in our power, to affirm that your lives and your breaths matter and make sure that that is a reality. We cannot only begin to know and say their names when their breath is taken from them.”

It is a courageous act to take to the streets in protest in the best of times; all the more so during a raging pandemic. We condemn the disproportionate use of violent police force against protesters as rage has swept the streets of the United States and the world. We also condemn President Trump’s racially-charged rhetoric threatening violence to unarmed civilian protestors.  We were repulsed when tear gas and violent force were used to remove peaceful protestors and clergy from the area around St. John’s Episcopal Church so that President Trump could enjoy a photo opportunity. 

We are outraged at the blatant discrepancy of police standing idly by as white supremacists at “Open Up” rallies march with assault rifles in hand, while unarmed protesters marching for racial justice are met by the swift deployment of the National Guard, SWAT teams in riot gear, tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades. RRC student Koach Baruch Frazier summarized the hypocrisy of this moment in a Facebook livestream video Sunday night, while he was gathering up empty military-grade shells of chemical dispersants deployed across residential streets of his neighborhood of West Philadelphia: 

“This is all this military stuff that they are shooting at our people out here, because we dare to say, ‘stop killing us.’ We got the chutzpah to say, ‘I don’t want to die at the hands of a police officer, and they are literally shooting us [points to a handful of cartridges from smoke bombs and tear gas]… You can see that this one says, “Defense Technology Corporation of America,” they are who supplied these weapons to the Philadelphia police department and they are using them against American citizens.”

Our hope is that this enormous amount of violence and pain can lead to real change in our country and that as few people as possible are hurt. We pray for a refuah shleimah, a speedy healing of body, mind and spirit, for all those who have been harmed over the course of the unfolding protests, and we offer our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the five additional people who have been killed. 

We join our friends at American Jewish World Service in calling on:

  • All lawmakers and law enforcement authorities in the United States — from President Trump and Attorney General Barr to every federal, state and local official — to make it clear that racist abuse and murder by any police officer, authority or citizen will be prosecuted aggressively and effectively with full accountability under the rule of law without exception;

  • President Trump, and any other elected officials who do so, to stop fanning the flames of hatred and intolerance through racist statements, Tweets and indisputable “dog whistles” to white nationalists and neo-Nazis;

  • Civil society — including all businesses, educational institutions, news organizations, nonprofits and faith communities — to recognize and root out institutionalized racism and other forms of hatred and intolerance;

  • The Jewish community to recognize and include Jews of color in every aspect of Jewish communal life; and

  • All protesters to pursue determined strategies to keep pressure on every sector of society through non-violent action in the context of the full right to free expression under law.

We find ourselves in a moment of deep collective rage. Some expressions of anger may feel constructive towards building the world of justice and liberation we seek, and some may seem destructive to that goal. Let us aspire to turn first to empathy when engaging that which we may not understand. We offer these closing words from Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, (RRC 2006 and Rabbi at SAJ, Judaism that Stands for All), as a blessing to help each of us find the empathy we need to navigate this moment of anger:

“I am angry. I am angry because I love. I love human beings. I love this gift of love. I want humans to thrive. And if we look into our hearts, we want every human being to thrive to their potential. And that is love.

Let ourselves feel the anger because it is a reflection of that love, that hope, that possibility.

Anger and love are not opposites. The God of anger and the God of love are not opposites. 

In this moment of pain, of injustice, of uncovering layers of justice, I want to invite us to call on the God of love and the God of anger, the same God, to support us in our work. And I want us to dig deep into our hearts to make space for love and anger and to know that one is a reflection of the other. Let our anger and our love lift us up into a better tomorrow and let’s continue to fight.”

Call to Protect Human Rights in in Myanmar (Burma) in Face of COVID-19



Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association signed a joint letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, demanding that Myanmar (Burma) make a priority of promoting human rights as COVID-19 spreads.

Letter Regarding COVID-19 Relief Priorities



Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association were among 23 Jewish organizations writing to Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer regarding priorities for COVID-19 relief.

Reopening Our Institutions


Reconstructing Judaism and Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association logos

(To Reconstructionist communities outside the United States: While this statement is oriented toward people in the United States, we believe it contains principles that are universal to people everywhere. We offer it to you for your consideration while you consider the particular circumstances and guidelines within your countries.)

The American Jewish community, like all faith communities, is suffering and in pain at this moment of pandemic and illness – and has risen to the challenges we face with grace, fortitude, heroism and beauty.

We grieve all the lives lost and pray that their memories become blessings for all of us and we offer comfort and condolence to all who mourn.

We are grateful to the medical personnel, first responders, essential workers and myriad helpers who have put their lives at risk to help serve in our communities – for them we continue to offer our prayers that they be kept from all harm and affliction.

Despite the tremendous toll this is taking on our communities – in loss of life, in sickness, in disruption of families and communities and in the financial health of our organizations and their members, we in the Jewish community have much of which to be proud and even more for which we can be grateful.

Reaction to the novel coronavirus across the American Jewish community was swift and comprehensive. Acting on our deeply held values of pikuach nefesh (saving lives); caring for the elderly, infirm and at-risk; and focusing on community wellness over individual comfort, most Jewish institutions responded with abundant caution to institute social distancing and working from home, and to completely redesign how we worship, learn, support one another, and work for the needs of our community (tzorchei tzibur) in this very stressful time.

Within days, most communities across the country shut down in-person services and moved their worship, educational programs and life-cycle events online. New forums and platforms have been utilized and invented to find ways to gather and sustain one another. The creativity that our community leaders, rabbis, cantors and educators are demonstrating has been astounding and awesome to behold.

As we continue the work of keeping each other safe and begin to contemplate a return to communal activity, we again want to be sure that our actions are dictated by our values and are in concert with the best scientific and medical advice available. To that end, Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association put forth these guidelines to help local communities, congregations, schools, camps, community institutions and others make the decisions necessary to keep individuals and our communities safe.

We offer these following frameworks for decision making:

  • We reject the false dichotomy between saving lives and reviving the economy: Medical science must be used as the basis upon which we make decisions about how and when to open our facilities and return to in-person programming. Opening too soon may increase the likelihood of new outbreaks and force vulnerable individuals into the position of having to put themselves at risk or forego community participation altogether, further isolating them. We hold health and safety above all other concerns as a guiding principle.
  • Decisions must be local and contextual, based on local circumstances such as infection rates, testing availability, health care capacity, population make-up, availability of PPE, etc. We urge all institutional leaders to be in touch with local as well as national health and safety experts and to follow the guidance of medical experts in your area.
  • Expectations must be realistic. We should anticipate that our lives and the lives of our communities will be shaped by COVID-19 for at least a year, possibly longer.  The openings of our synagogues, JCCs, camps, schools, institutions and organizations will happen in stages and may also be sporadic and inconsistent. We should expect gatherings of differently sized groupings to be permitted at different times and should not be surprised if some activities that are permitted are shut down again in response to new outbreaks or other relevant conditions.
  • Decisions about openings and gatherings of different sizes must be made according to medical and preparedness markers established by the CDC, state and local health authorities.
  • Leaders should prepare their communities now about reimagining our high holiday experiences, our life cycle observances and our educational programs to not look “normal” for the remainder of 2020 and possibly further.

 Some questions to consider for individual institutions:

  • Has your insurance company weighed in on benchmarks for reopening, and for operating any programs? Your movement institutions? How will these influence your decision?
  • Will you maintain an online streaming option once you are back together worshiping in physical space? How will that need to adjust when there is also in-person worship happening?
  • How many people can your prayer space hold if you are praying in family groups sitting 6 feet apart?
  • How will you discourage receiving lines, physical touching or intimacy and safe distancing before or after services (during oneg or kiddush)?
  • During earlier phases of relaunch, how will you cap attendance at events so there is room for members of the community to join you and so you don’t go over guidelines?
  • How can you encourage small group gatherings or or havurot in the earlier phases of relaunching – possibly even before we move from back from social distancing? How might you continue these when in-person services resume?
  • How will you ensure sanitation and disinfection in regards to communal spaces?
    • Ritual items such as kippot and tallitot, prayerbooks, etc.
    • Areas where small groups gather during the week
    • Nurseries and/or playgrounds
    • Pews or chairs following worship
    • Doorknobs, bathrooms, other areas that people touch when in your building
  • How will you update your building use agreements to reflect the new realities of COVID-19?
  • If someone contracts COVID-19, how will you communicate with your congregation as a whole and with individual members who may have come into contact with that individual while maintaining privacy and pastoral care?
  • If someone who has been in your building contracts COVID-19, how will you do a more intensive cleaning prior to its next use?
  • How will you communicate your safety plan and best practices to the congregation?

The Jewish community has faced many paradigm-shifting events in our long history. From the destruction of the ancient temple in Jerusalem to the dispersions and expulsions of the Middle Ages up until the horrors of more recent centuries, Jews have survived with resilience, creativity and fortitude to forge new ways of being and new ways of connecting again, again and again. The same will be true under this current threat and we will come to a time, may it be speedily and in our day, where once again the streets will be filled with gladness, the voices of children will sing and we shall not know fear any longer. Let us all do everything we can to help us reach that day.

Statement from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association on Communal Gatherings during COVID-19 Pandemic


Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

Reconstructing Judaism joins the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association in the following statement.

March 26, 2020
1 Nisan 5780

At this time of global pandemic and the urgent need to stop the spread of Coronavirus, we Jews find ourselves caught between a number of dearly held values.  We have the desire and significant precedent of coming together in times of crisis, especially to celebrate holidays and observe family milestones, and we also understand the need to separate and physically distance ourselves from one another for the sake of the health and wellbeing of all of us.

Based on our understanding of the science and the advice of experts, we, rabbis of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, strongly come down on the side of pikuach nefesh - preserving lives – as many as possible regardless of age, demographic, vulnerability, or other markers of distinction and identity. 

Therefore, we are issuing these guidelines in preparation for the upcoming Passover holiday and in awareness of the likelihood of continued concern over disease spread at this time.

Passover Gatherings

We urge all communities, congregations, Jewish community centers, and other organizations to cancel in-person Seders and, where desirable and feasible, to move them online to virtual platforms. 

We strongly urge families and individuals to refrain from gathering for Seder with anyone outside of their immediate household.  Our tradition teaches that even if a person is alone, the mitzvah of telling the story can be fulfilled. 

We urge each household to gather for Seder on their own, and to link their family and friends together via Zoom, FaceTime, or other virtual connections, in order to include those who are physically isolated this holiday season.

Life Events

Given the increased needs in hospitals throughout the country for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the safety of those treating the ill, and the impossibility of safely performing Tahara (the ritual preparation of the deceased for burial) without PPE, we recommend against doing Taharot at this time.

Because we place the highest priority on maintaining the safety of the living, we recommend limiting attendance at funerals and other life-cycle events to family members only, and using live-streaming and virtual participation wherever possible.

We also recommend against gathering for Shiva or shiva minyanim until further notice.  Where desirable, shiva minyanim can be moved online and people are urged to connect with each other electronically and via phone to offer comfort.  But we strongly discourage people from visiting each other in their homes, even briefly.

We remind everyone that the Talmud teaches dina dmalchut’a dina - that we recognize the law of the local presiding authorities as binding upon us.  We strongly urge everyone to follow the regulations of their local health and public safety requirements and out of an abundance of caution, to go even further in restricting physical contact with others in places where the regulations remain lenient.

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association remain committed to providing resources, services and materials to help adjust to the above and to life under this current shutdown.   Many resources for virtual gatherings and home practices are available at  https://www.reconstructingjudaism.org/recon-connect.  We are gathering additional information and will make it available to rabbis and community members as it becomes available.

We look forward to better days ahead and a time when gladness and joy will fill our streets once more.  May it be soon.

Jewish Community Statement Calling for Expanded Access to Nutrition Assistance Due to Coronavirus Crisis



Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association joined more than 650 Jewish organizations and clergy in a letter calling for increased and expanded nutrition assistance in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

Letter from Jewish Rohingya Justice Network to Senate Foreign Relations Committee



Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association joined a letter urging the U.S. Senate to take up and pass the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2019 (S. 1186).

Statement on Hanukkah Antisemitic Attacks


Reconstructing Judaism and Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association logos

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association are heartsick once again to learn of the recent spate of antisemitic attacks against members of the New York Jewish community. Coming during Hanukkah, our holiday of light, hope, and visibility, it is especially painful to think of the fear these attacks instill in all of us. We offer prayers for healing, both physical and spiritual, to the communities of Monsey, New York City, and Jersey City, with special attention to those most recently wounded and their families: Yosef ben Perel, Shlomo ben Vittel, Naftali Tzvi ben Vittel, Naftula Tzvi Ben Gila and Meyer Yehosef ben Vittel. 

We recognize that hate does not arise in a vacuum and does not spread with impunity unless encouraged to do so by those in the highest echelons of power. We call on the Trump Administration and others in power to condemn the rising tide of antisemitism, racism, Islamophobia and all forms of hate immediately and in the strongest way possible.  

We are grateful for the many allies who have reached out to the Jewish community at this time and we are committed to remaining in solidarity with all victims of white supremacy and hatred and with those who are combating these scourges. May the last lights of the Hanukkah festival continue to shine hope, joy and light in this time of increased anxiety and fear.


Subscribe to RSS - Crisis Response