The outstanding success of last month’s inaugural Women of Reform Social Justice Conference (SJC) can be measured in myriad ways: the intriguing workshops, elegant Shabbat services, networking with friends, YES fundraising, and engaging plenaries. Appropriately, and in keeping with the theme of tikkun olam, the attendees were not given program books and a dozen flyers at registration but were asked to upload all conference materials to an app. Throughout SJC and continuing through the Religious Action Center’s Consultation on Conscience that followed, we received reminders about places to go and people to see, and up-to-the-minute changes in the exhaustive schedule.
But this is not to suggest we “traveled light.” In the several weeks since I returned from Washington, friends and family have asked if I had a good time at the two consecutive events, and I find it impossible to answer with a simple “yes” or “no.” For the very reason we gathered in DC, the whole purpose of our engagement, was to focus on repairing our damaged, unjust, imperfect world. With little respite, it was possible to move from a discussion on the catastrophic effects of climate change, to race and gender inequity, to immigration, to mass incarceration, to the increasing restrictions on women’s reproductive choice. Everyone who has asked me about my week has been treated to an earful of concerns and society’s problems and the devastating effects of current public policy. It probably would be easier to just respond in the great tradition of our ancestors: “Don’t ask.”
And yet, we are instructed to ask, to question, to doubt authority. At both the SJC and Consultation on Conscience, we were given the tools by which we can frame those questions and – even more important – advocate for social change and justice in our world. While we may not have been given a tote bag full of conference materials to schlep around for several days, the things we now carry are heavy indeed. And will stay with us until we can repair the damage, and undoubtedly for many years to come.
At SJC, The Women of Reform Judaism announced a new initiative with the Religious Action Center, one in which we are committed to devoting financial and professional resources to the increasingly infringed-upon rights of reproductive choice and women’s health. This is only one of many endeavors in which we are actively engaged, but as state legislatures were demolishing the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade ruling of 1973 even as we sat in workshops in Washington, it is one that has great urgency.
The SJC gave us history, statistics, case studies, and resolutions. But knowledge, indignation, and a keen sense of social justice urge us to move forward, no matter the weight of the things we carry. As our sisterhoods and synagogues plan events for the year ahead, or as each of us plan an individual course of action, please enlist the help and resources of WRJ. We can make it possible for every voice to be heard and reverberate. As a group, we lighten the weight of the things we all carry, for we are stronger together.
Sharon Sobel is the WRJ Northeast District First Vice President. She is a member of Temple B’nai Chaim Sisterhood in Georgetown, CT.
This blog was adapted from a WRJ Northeast newsletter.