Tikkun Olam: Brit Olam & Policy

Temple Shalom has signed onto Brit Olam, joining other congregations committing to acting powerfully and together to bring upon the world we want – a world filled with justice, compassion and wholeness. To see the list of congregations, click here. To learn more, visit www.rac.org/britolam

This page will provide updates on RAC issues and other Tikkun Olam policy issues of congregational interest.

The Religious Action Center of the URJ has put together an action item to reach out to your representative on the issue of the administration’s zero tolerance policy, and family detention policies. Please take action if you would like to add your voice. Read thiblog regarding actions we can take as a congregation, and as individuals concerning the actions at our borders.

Congregational Message from Rabbi Andrew Paley, June 26, 2018

My Dear Friends:

Last Thursday was the sunniest day of the year – the Summer solstice. Each day after that we get less and less of the sun. Not a new phenomenon for sure, but one that unfortunately seems to make more and more sense lately.  

Many of you have asked me lately about where Judaism fits into the recent developments in our country particularly as it relates to the U.S. immigration policy and the Supreme Court ruling about the travel ban. I suspect the questions stem from the feelings that some have that our world is getting a little darker every single day. While that may be true calendar wise at this time of the year, it is also true that at the Winter solstice, the day of the year with the least sunlight, the calendar marches toward brighter and brighter days.

Recently I spoke about how heavy my heart feels watching and reading about what is happening to families on our Southern border and the chaos that has ensued due to a lack of clarity about strategy and tactics as we seek to implement immigration policy. Here Judaism speaks with unambiguous language and direction. In the Torah we are commanded 36 times to remember that we were strangers in a strange land and that we are obligated, “When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” [Leviticus 19:33-34]. Our foundational story is one of “stranger”. That’s who we were. The immigrant story is who we are.  The Jewish communal institutions – our synagogues, The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, JCC’s and the like all aim to make sure that strangers are welcomed and made to feel safe and secure in their new home. We can continue to figure out how to do that while maintaining the safety and security of our country. We as Americans are nothing if not creative. The prevailing Jewish value here is understanding and believing that all of God’s creations who are trying to do the right thing should be treated with love and care. There is a way to prosecute the laws of our country and be moral, decent and caring at the same time. When our government and elected leaders act in contravention to these ideals, then we must speak out.  More importantly, if this core feature of our Jewish identity – that we were strangers in a strange land and that we should love the stranger as we love ourselves – is to be actualized in any significant way, then because we are no longer strangers in this country are we duty bound to make sure others aren’t treated as we were. Here I believe is where the convergence of Judaism’s teachings and America’s opportunities merge in a powerful, hopeful and meaningful way.

I believe the U.S. is still the land of opportunity and the place where, “… we still hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life,  liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” And I believe that our command to be a nation of priests – a holy people – requires of us to remember; who we are, from where and from whom we came and to use that memory to bring more light to the world no matter the time of year nor how difficult the road in front of us. We want our country to be safe, to be humane, to be fair, to be welcoming and we can certainly love those strangers as we love ourselves. We should do no less and may God give us the courage to do more.

Rabbi Andrew Paley