More Reflections from the RAC
On May 19th-21st, members of Temple Beth David went to the Consultation on Conscience, a gathering of 1200 social-justice minded Reform Jews at the Religious Action Center (RAC) in Washington. The following is an article written by TBD member Lori Sudderth and her experience while attending the event:
I was one of the fortunate attendees of the Consultation on Conscience, my first experience of the conference, although I hope not my last. This is a social justice conference about putting Jewish values into action: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.” I attended workshops on creating places for respectful conversations, the connections between anti-Semitism and racism, and lobbying tips for interested congregations. The inspirational talks ranged from high school students leading national movements to reduce gun violence and pass protective legislation for undocumented students (i.e., “Dreamers”) to Nancy Pelosi, dressed entirely in white except for her purple pumps, speaking to us on the 100th anniversary of the U.S. House of Representatives passing the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.
On the last day, we boarded buses and headed to the Capitol for prearranged appointments with our senators and representatives (or, as in our case, their staff). I teach a course on criminal justice policy and walk students through the process of changing policies every semester. I also worked for a state senator when I was in college and marched in plenty of protests in my time. But I had never acted in a lobbying capacity, always fearful that I would lose my cool or sound ridiculous; I have to admit—I was nervous. Before we entered Senator Murphy’s office, however, one of the rabbis with us asked us to pause and be “in awe of this moment,” because there are places in the world where this conversation between government representative and constituent does not happen without consequences. I thought of a friend of mine in Nicaragua who has received death threats and faces economic ruin because of her work in women’s movement there. I was still nervous, but I felt grounded in that moment, surrounded by other Jews who wanted to make a difference. And so I gave my statement to the young man in Senator Murphy’s office and the young woman in Representative Hayes’ office; I acted on what I had learned at the conference, asked for their support. I walked away feeling that whatever happened with the legislation, I had spoken my conscience, and acted on my values. I felt both humbled and proud to be part of our TBD delegation and a part of this faith.