What WRJ Advocacy Looks Like: Education to Action

March 20, 2024Rena Crawford

Leading with the principle of tikkun olam, repairing the world, Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) encourages individual action and mobilizes collective action to uplift our voices on a variety of causes in pursuit of a more just and compassionate world for all people. Since WRJ was established, our organization and our folks have been deeply engaged in issues of international importance including peace efforts through international bodies, promoting human rights, and advocacy around global health and international development initiatives. We have advocated for and supported the State of Israel from before its modern-day foundation and work in partnership with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). Historically and presently, WRJ is committed to the peace process as well as advancing religious pluralism and equal rights for women in Israel.

Following the horrific attacks on October 7, 2023, WRJ jumped to action in support of our partners in Israel. Our philanthropy is tied to our advocacy, and we were the first arm of the Reform Movement in North America to step forward with an emergency grant to support the needs of our partners after October 7, even before those expanding needs were fully understood. We stand with all the people of Israel during these difficult and challenging days and pray for the safety and release of all hostages. We will never be silent in the fight for women’s rights and bodily integrity, against sexual assault and violence, and for a democratic and Jewish state. We have consistently condemned the use of violence and mourned the suffering of innocents, and in particular, sexual violence perpetrated against women.

WRJ’s values regarding, relationship with, and commitment to Israel led to an unprecedented feminist solidarity mission to Israel, in partnership with Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN). The mission took place in mid-February and focused on feminist voices. The seven-day trip started in Jerusalem and traveled to the Israel-Gaza border area and Kibbutz Kfar Azza. Participants spent Shabbat in Tel Aviv with the IMPJ community to end the trip. Now that this delegation took place and folks have been home for over a month, how do we plan to continue our individual and collective education, action, and advocacy?

WRJ takes an “Education to Action” (E2A) approach to our advocacy work. Education is the key that unlocks the door to effective action and activism; we value and encourage education as an essential part of social action, social justice activity, and advocacy work. Our advocacy plan uplifts this approach, reflecting our lay leaders and staff, the activity in our Movement, and the issues that confront us at a given time. Our resources include:

•    Our regularly updated “Supporting Israel from Afar” webpage
•    Global webinars to support the educational activity of WRJ districts, local affiliates, and individual members around the topic of Israel
•    You can also join our Israel Discussion group on Mighty Network to be a part of the conversation and learning

When WRJ advocates, we amplify our impact by raising both our individual voices and our collective voice. Leading up to and following the WRJ/WRN mission to Israel, we encouraged folks to participate in a click action that WRJ developed with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) by urging the Senate to condemn rape and sexual violence committed by Hamas in its war against Israel.

On the mission, we uplifted our voices and bore witness to the attacks firsthand by visiting with families of hostages, those who are now displaced within their own country, those who have lost family members and friends and all surrounding neighbors, and civil society leaders trying to find peace in a time so full of anger and darkness. After returning home, our Executive Committee passed a statement on WRJ’s unwavering recognition of the legitimacy of the State of Israel and its right to defend itself while also advocating for peace and against war. This statement also acknowledged our commitment to raise up the voices of those who have been assaulted, who have been taken hostage, and who have been silenced forever.

To share in the reflection and learning, mission trip leaders WRJ Executive Director Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch and WRN Social Action and Advocacy Vice President Rabbi Lisa Delson presented "An Israel Mission Trip Discussion & Recap" open to the public; and from May 30 – June 2, 2024, the E2A will continue at FWC. 

At FWC, there will be several opportunities to engage with Israel content – speakers, workshop topics, and special guests. 

  • A workshop on Israeli/Global Reform Connections, featuring Tamar Roig, IMPJ’s Partnership Development Director  
  • A workshop on The State of the State of Israel, including talk of the state’s politics and upcoming WZC elections, featuring WRJ VP of Social Justice and Arzenu co-chair Shoshana Dweck and Religious Action Center (RAC) Associate Director Barbara Weinstein
  • A workshop on Responding to Antisemitism, featuring Regional Director at the Anti-Defamation League Lindsay Baach Friedmann and Assistant Director of Tulane University Hillel Gary Brandt
  • A few of our special guests include: Yochi Rappeport, Executive Director of Women of the Wall (WOW), and Rabbi Dalia Marx, Ph.D., Rabbi Aaron D. Panken Professor of Liturgy and Midrash at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem
  • More workshops on Israel, spirituality, religion, and feminism to come featuring some familiar and exciting names! 
     

WRJ educates, we act, and we advocate. We provide and encourage education, offer opportunities to act, and seek ways to lift our voices in meaningful advocacy of various forms. Our work takes many forms, is led by a variety of lay and professional leaders and enables varying levels of engagement from a click action to a plane ride. This is WRJ’s approach to our social justice work and this is how we will continue to engage in difficult topics, uplift our individual and collective voice, make an impact, and repair the world. We encourage you to attend our upcoming Fried Women’s Conference to learn more, hear from folks doing the work on the ground, and witness our E2A approach to advocacy work on Israel, reproductive rights, and many other topics, in New Orleans, LA, from May 30 – June 2. We look forward to educating, acting, and advocating alongside you.
 

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