Convention Social Justice

Social Justice at CCAR Convention: We Stand at a Crossroads

When we gathered in Orange County in November of 2016 to begin planning for the upcoming CCAR Convention, we recognized immediately that, like the interchanges of the Southern California freeway system, we stood at a crossroads and that we were all being challenged to figure out which direction we would take.  The challenges we are presented with on a daily basis invite us to find a way to navigate between the spiritual, professional and civic engagement pathways that our roles as rabbis and our faith as Jews require of us.

As we inch closer to convention, I am looking forward to the many opportunities for us to learn more and engage with Social Justice leaders and thinkers on topics that are rising to the topic of our concerns.  Every day of convention will have moments that will help us learn how we can advance the many concerns we have as Reform Jews.  Through conversations with champions of Social Justice, we will be able to think deeply about the directions we might take in our own communities when we stand at our own crossroads.  I would like to take a moment to highlight the many Social Justice learning opportunities we have throughout convention.

We stand at a crossroads about the protection of our civil rights.  The Supreme Court of the United States exists to interpret the constitutionality of our laws.  Inherent in that is the protection of the civil rights guaranteed to us by the constitution.  To open convention, journalist Dahlia Lithwick will discuss with us “The Battle for the future of America at the Supreme Court.”  This session will help frame our thinking as to how we as rabbis navigate the crossroads that strive to ensure the protection of the values we strive to safeguard.

We stand at a crossroads of Civic Engagement.  At convention we will have sessions with California Elected officials, Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Sacramento, Darrell Steinberg and State Controller, Betty Yee.  On Tuesday evening, we will turn our focus to one of the most pressing issues of the day, Gun Violence Protection.  So many of us are motivated to make a lasting change that will prevent what happened in Parkland and the many other communities affected by gun violence from happening again.  CA state Attorney General Xavier Becerra will address gun policy in California and his recent victory defending California’s law at the Supreme Court.

We stand at a crossroads of Health Care policy.  Tuesday at convention will focus on health care.  With changes to the ACA and the challenges many of our colleagues face when it comes to health care access, we will turn to national policy expert John McDonough who will speak to current and future states of Health Care reform.  McDonough served as a Senior Advisor on National Health Reform to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions where he worked on the development and passage of the Affordable Care Act.

We stand at a crossroads on Immigration concerns.  To conclude convention, we will have a conversation with Mark Hetfield, CEO of HIAS.  HIAS has led the way supporting refugees and immigrants in our communities.  We will spend time learning about the impact we need to make moving forward.  Monday afternoon will also feature a workshop on “The Escalation of Removal” where we will learn about the power of immigrant voices in our world today.

We stand a crossroads of navigating the religious imperative to do pursue justice.  With the increasing polarization of our communities, we often stand on thin ice when it comes to the balance of Jewish values compared with political ideologies.  Wednesday morning will feature a conversation with Sister Simon Campbell, “The Nun on the Bus” and Jonathan Cohen, about how we navigate this tension.  Sister Simone is a trailblazer in her community and her voice was instrumental in the passing of the Affordable Care Act.  Her bus tours have opened up lines of communication to understand what matters to the heart of Americans.  She is elevated the voice of the poor and of immigrants.

Lastly, there will also be workshops by the RAC leadership on the Urgency of Now and also on the Mass Incarceration.

I look forward to seeing you in Orange County as we navigate the heavy traffic of the Social Justice arena.

Rabbi Rick Kellner serves Congregation Beth Tikvah in Columbus, Ohio and is the co-chair of the 2018 CCAR Convention in Orange County

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