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Endorsement of HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act



Reconstructing Judaism endorses the Health Equity and Access under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2019

Jewish Rohingya Justice Network Letter to Under Secretary Mandelker


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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association have joined with 18 organizations, representing the Jewish Rohingya Justice Network, in calling on Under Secretary of the Treasury Sigal Mandelker to pursue justice and accountability for the Rohingya people and all ethnic minorities in Burma. Rori Kramer, Director of Government Affairs for American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading global Jewish human rights organization, issued the following statement on the Network’s behalf:

“On August 25, the world will mark two years since the Burmese military escalated a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya people. Because of this state-sanctioned violence, more than 700,000 Rohingya people have fled their homes and live in impoverished conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The military is also the key perpetrator of human rights violations against other ethnic and religious minority groups in Burma (also known as Myanmar).

“The Jewish community has come together to urge Under Secretary Mandelker, as the lead for international sanctions, to designate the most senior Burmese military officials, who were the key architects of the gross violations of human rights against the Rohingya people. It is also crucial to impose financial sanctions on military-owned enterprises since the income generated from these businesses enables the military to continue its brutal acts of gross human rights violations in Burma.

“As Jews, we cannot stay silent in face of genocide, and we are grateful that Under Secretary Mandelker shares our commitment to pursuing justice. We know the cost of silence and we will continue to advocate on behalf of the Rohingya and ethnic minorities in Burma until the military ceases its operations of violence and persecution.”

The full text of the letter delivered to the U.S. Treasury Under Secretary and signatory list are available above as a PDF.

Statement on Violence Against Jewish Protesters at ICE Detention Center


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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association condemn the violence committed against peaceful protestors at the entrance to an ICE detention center in Rhode Island.  

We wish to express our full support for the non-violent tactics and moral message of the #NeverAgainIsNow Rhode Island Tisha B’Av action. We are proud of our RRA rabbi participants, Rabbi Alex Weissman and Rabbi Adam Lavitt, as well as all the organizers and protestors for their courage to resist the detention and mistreatment of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Now is the time to overcome the inertia of silence in the face of these ongoing human rights abuses.  

We denounce the actions of the employees of the for-profit Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, which contracts with ICE, both for driving a truck into the protesters and for aggressively dispersing them with pepper spray.  We welcome the Attorney General and state police’s investigation into this violence.  We pray for a refu’ah shlaymah — full and complete healing — for the three people hospitalized for severe pepper spray exposure and the two hospitalized after being hit by the truck.  

For many of us, the images and video from last night’s protest echo our lingering fear and hurt following the devastating car attack two years ago in Charlottesville, Va. that killed Heather Heyer and injured many others. In the face of such intimidating violence, we must recommit ourselves to the constitutional protections of free speech and free assembly. These are the cornerstones of our democracy and fundamental rights our society cannot afford to lose.  

As fear increases, so can the capacity for closing our hearts to the suffering of others. We offer you these reflections from Rabbi Alex Weissman (RRC ‘17) as an example of the moral leadership we so desperately need in these times: 

To work in a system that dehumanizes people requires you to close your heart. It was clear these men’s hearts were closed. Their hearts were hardened. For reasons I do not know, they chose violence.

Our country is in a moment of heart hardening. I too felt my heart harden, wanting revenge, wanting to do violence to those that harmed my people. My friends. My dear ones.
This is not the way forward, as tempting as it is.

As we sang again and again tonight, “olam chesed yibaneh” (psalm 89). The world is built on love. We must build this world from love.

Those with hardened hearts will fall.
Justice will come.
Liberation is coming.
It is what God wants.
It is what our ancestors want.
It is what we want.

Joint Letter on Refugee Policy



Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association have joined with 166 Jewish organizations and institutions in urging the United States to return to historic numbers for refugee resettlement. “The United States has historically distinguished itself as a beacon of hope and as a safe haven for those who most need it… Resettling zero refugees in the U.S. in FY2020 would effectively gut the refugee resettlement program, violate our values as Jews and Americans, and abdicate the American promise of freedom and opportunity.”

Letter opposing nomination of Ronald Mortensen



Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association were among sixteen national Jewish organizations signing onto a letter of opposition to the nomination of Ronald Mortensen, an anti-immigrant extremist, as assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

Jewish Communal Letter on Refugee Admissions



Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association were among the 36 Jewish organizations that signed onto a letter urging President Trump to support a safe and strong U.S. refugee admissions program that represents the best of America.

Joint Statement on Immigration


The leadership of Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association condemn with horror the travesty that has become our immigration system under the administration of U.S. President Donald J. Trump. The “zero tolerance” policy that first saw young children ripped away from their parents as they attempted to seek asylum and safety in the United States—and now is holding families locked up in detention—is immoral and a disgrace to the American and Jewish values we hold dear. With the fate of thousands of children still separated from their parents in doubt, we are raising our collective voices in protest.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling upholds President Trump’s ban on immigrants entering the country from five majority Muslim nations—a ban that is racist, cruel and further abandons America’s legacy as a welcoming country, a nation of immigrants and a home to people of all faiths.

As Jews, we recall our history as oppressed and wandering people who have sought refuge in many places over the centuries, including in the United States. We also recall our sacred texts that exhort us over and over again to welcome the stranger and to care for the immigrant in our midst. While we understand the need for safe and secure borders, we do not agree that immigration is by definition a threat to us or to our economy.

We Reconstructionist Jews see the erosion of welcome, the rule of law and due process, and the institution of anti-Muslim, anti-Latino and anti-immigrant policies as evidence of a severe moral decline. We call on Congress to enact real immigration reform, re-opening the doors that this administration is attempting to slam shut. We call for the renewal of a clean Dream Act, allowing permanent immigration status for the hundreds of thousands of young adults brought to this country as children.

We further call on our rabbis, congregants and members to continue the work they have engaged in thus far to provide sanctuary, oppose bigotry and resist the pernicious policies in place. We are proud of the efforts that so many leaders who identify with our movement have taken to date and share these with you as inspiration going forward:

  • The participation of Reconstructionist rabbis Yohanna Kinberg and Rachel Gartner in an interfaith clergy mission to the Texas border, representing Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Catholic communities.
  • Reconstructing Judaism and the RRA’s coordinated participation in sector-wide advocacy efforts led by fellow Jewish organizations: 
  • The publication of original prayers, rituals and poems by Reconstructionist rabbis and lay leaders on Ritualwell and others.
  • Participation in local and regional rallies, demonstrations, and ongoing protests to demonstrate collective power and readiness to mobilize.

We wish to acknowledge that Reconstructionist congregations and havurot have been engaged in deepening local coalitions to stand in solidarity with immigrant communities. In partnership with the New Sanctuary Movement, the following congregations have created physical spaces in their communal buildings to shelter immigrant families:

In these times, the strength of our networks, our determination to work toward the creation of a society that reflects our highest ethical values and the connection of our actions to a long lineage of unswerving commitment to the pursuit of justice in Jewish tradition and beyond impel us toward continued activism. May we work to build the world we wish our future generations to inherit.

Jewish Letter on Family Separation


Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association stand with other national Jewish organizations to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies that separate children from their parents.

Our press release follows:

Alarmed by the U.S. government’s “zero tolerance” policy of separating children from their migrant parents when they cross the border, 26 national Jewish organizations sent a letter to the Administration expressing strong opposition to the cruel practice. The groups, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), the Reform Movement, and HIAS, are urging the Administration to immediately rescind the “zero tolerance” policy and uphold the values of family unity and justice on which our nation was built.

Reports indicate that over 1,000 children have already been separated from their parents since the policy was implemented. Mounting evidence suggests that many children have been threatened, treated poorly, and held in dangerous conditions. In response to such cruel policy, the signers joined together to voice our Jewish values of caring for the stranger in our midst, which requires that we immediately end family separation. ‘How we treat the stranger reflects on the moral values and ideals of this nation. As the letter states:

“Our own people’s history as ‘strangers’ reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today and compels our commitment to an immigration system in this country that is compassionate and just. […] Separating families is a cruel punishment for children and families simply seeking a better life and exacerbates existing challenges in our immigration system. It adds to the backlog of deportation cases and legal challenges in federal courts, places thousands more immigrants in detention facilities and shelters, endangers the lives of more children, and instills additional fear in people seeking safety in our country.”

The letter was signed by the following 26 organizations:

  • American Conference of Cantors
  • American Jewish Committee (AJC)
  • American Jewish World Service
  • Anti-Defamation League
  • B’nai B’rith International
  • Bend the Arc Jewish Action
  • Central Conference of American Rabbis
  • Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
  • HIAS
  • Jewish Council for Public Affairs
  • Jewish Labor Committee
  • Jewish Women International
  • Men of Reform Judaism
  • National Association of Jewish Legislators
  • National Council of Jewish Women
  • Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies
  • NFTY – The Reform Jewish Youth Movement
  • Rabbinical Assembly
  • Reconstructing Judaism 
  • Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
  • The Workmen’s Circle
  • T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
  • Union for Reform Judaism
  • United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
  • Uri L’Tzedek, The Orthodox Social Justice Movement
  • Women of Reform Judaism

Jewish Support for Dreamers: A Self-Evident Truth


Why did more than 100 Jewish leaders from around the country participate last month in act of civil disobedience in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building?

Why were 86 rabbis arrested, some handcuffed and carried off while still wearing their prayer shawls? And why do we, leaders of the Reconstructionist denomination of Judaism, spend so much time and social capital advocating on behalf of the roughly 800,000 Dreamers at risk of deportation. In case you didn’t know, very few of the Dreamers are Jews.

The answer is self-evident and derives from our tradition’s most sacred treasure: The Torah.

Torah values compelled our organizations, Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, to partner with Bend the Arc, a Jewish social justice organization, in a national day of action supporting the Dreamers. On February 7, we proudly co-sponsored the “Jews Stand with Dreamers” rally outside the Philadelphia offices of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey. Pennsylvania’s Republican junior senator has said that President Obama lacked the authority to create the DACA program and that President Trump was right to end it and throw the matter to Congress.

We don’t agree and, neither do the majority of the Jewish community or for that matter, most Americans. A CBS News poll released last month shows that 70 percent of Americans favor allowing Dreamers to remain in the United States. Even in an era of polarization, most Americans understand this issue in terms of fundamental fairness. These are some of the reasons why we delivered to Toomey’s office a letter signed by 13,000 American Jews demanding action and a path to citizenship for Dreamers. We hope that Toomey and many of his Senate and House colleagues can be swayed by the righteousness of the cause.

As Jews, as Americans and as human beings, we know from our sacred texts, from the values that we draw from them, and from our lived experience that we must stand for those who are on the margins of society. We cannot sit idly by while our neighbors and friends face deportation and homelessness.

The Torah, the sacred text of the Jewish people, tells us 36 times that we must welcome the stranger because we, who were strangers in the land of Egypt, know what it means to be the stranger.  The Dreamers were brought to this country as children; they grew up here speaking English and participating in our communities.  Most Dreamers have jobs or are in university and contribute mightily to our society.  They are not unknown to us or “others,” but are sojourners in our midst – exactly the kind of people the Torah injunction is telling us to think about.  It is a moral imperative to treat those who reside with us, who contribute and build alongside us, as equals in our society.

Furthermore, we Jews know from our lived experience that our safety is only as secure as the safety of the most vulnerable people in our society. We know that ultra-nationalist rhetoric and closed borders means persecution and suffering for vulnerable populations, including masses of innocent, striving people. The era of mass Jewish immigration to the United States ended with the passage of the immigration act of 1924, which effectively barred the gates to Eastern and Southern Europeans. Imagine how many victims of the Holocaust could have been saved had our nation remained open to those in need. Imagine the incalculable human potential denied a chance to benefit our society — or any society.

We know from our history that Jewish safety is only as strong as the civil society of the nations in which we dwell and where our relationships with other groups have been strong. The promise of America’s founding documents has created unprecedented opportunity for America’s Jews. As much as we have sought advancement and hopefulness for ourselves, we seek them for all immigrants. We stand with Dreamers because, in a time of growing intolerance and divisiveness, when the human and civil rights of all minorities are increasingly threatened, we need allies and we need to be allies.

We hope for a more open, sensible and secure immigration system that gives people from around the world the same chance at reinvention that our Jewish forbearers enjoyed. Right now, our immediate focus is on the Dreamers who were brought here as children, and who, due to the arbitrary actions of President Trump, face an imminent threat of deportation. Such a cruel act would not only rob these so many young people of their safety, security, and prosperity, it would irreparably destroy their American dream and our collective American future.  

As Reconstructionist Jews, we insist that the best of Judaism should inform America and the best of America should inform Judaism.  The highest ideals of this country resonate deeply with Jewish values, including the teaching that all people are created in God’s image, that all people are of the opportunity to live full, free, meaningful lives. Out of Jewish and American values, out of our Jewish and American experiences, we call upon our elected officials to act upon the best of American values and to pass a clean Dream Act.

We encourage people to consult the five books of Moses — sacred to all the traditions descended from Abraham — and read for yourself the Biblical imperative to welcome the immigrant. Please contact our member of Congress. And if you can, join us in person and make your voices heard. 

Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., is president of Reconstructing Judaism.

Rabbi Elyse Wechterman is president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.

Pursuing Justice

National Jewish Letter on DREAM Act



RRC/JRC signed onto a letter urging members of Congress to support the bipartisan DREAM Act.


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