CCAR Convention Rabbis Reform Judaism Social Justice

CCAR 2015: From Selma to Philadelphia

On the Sunday before the CCAR Convention, I joined an amazing gathering at Temple Mishkan Israel in Selma, Alabama. The list of incredibly impressive speakers included dignitaries associated with the Civil Rights Movement of 50 years ago and current activists and leaders. A woman who walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965 was in the congregation with us. Peter Yarrow made a surprise appearance to recount all the places in which he sang “Blowin’ in the Wind” during the 1960’s in support of Civil Rights and then led us in singing it back to him. Rev. Dr. William Barber, II, raised the roof with his fiery call to rededicate our efforts to pursue the Civil Rights we still lack.

Yesterday, the Monday program at the CCAR brought us Rev. Barber’s inspirational and insightful keynote presentation, a blessing to hear him twice in the space of nine days. I am thrilled to re-energize my commitment to using my rabbinate to help facilitate social progress, and honored that I got to reflect on the ways we use our rabbinical presences to pursue and implement tzedek. All of this on the same day as our Reform rabbinic colleagues gathered to assemble 10,000 meals to feed malnourished children – something we accomplished in our mere two hours allotted!

Selma, Philadelphia, Charlotte, where I serve Temple Beth El (there’s one in almost every town) – wherever we go we bring with us the wisdom of our ancestors which we apply to imagine, and then create, a better society for all. We mobilize each other and the people around us – congregants, staff, colleagues, interfaith partners – so that we may go forth and achieve that which Rev. Barber demanded of us: a prophetic voice and righteous action in the public square.

I continue to be heartened by our time here at the CCAR Convention. I love finding intellectual resources deepened by learning from and conversing with colleagues from multiple generations. My prayer life gets enriched by participating instead of leading, and by being led so capably and creatively.

May we all go from strength to strength in our rabbinates – I continue to by honored and filled with joy to be part of the Conference.

Rabbi Jonathan Freirich is associate rabbi of Temple Beth El in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

CCAR Convention

Gender Issues are Mens’ Issues

As we are about to reconvene in dinners focused on an aspect of gender identity at the CCAR in Chicago, I remember my obligation to write a small piece about why a group of men got together to talk about gender issues at the CCAR last year, in 2013.

As we aim to bring real egalitarianism to our synagogues, Reform Judaism, and our countries, it has become abundantly clear that when men and women progress through the same jobs, equality in treatment, pay, and benefits works to everyone’s advantage. We must enlist men to see that gender issues affect everyone, including men.

Here are three issues that come to mind immediately that impact women and men as rabbis:

  • When a woman gets paid less in a job than a man who may then succeed her in that job, we have lowered the pay standards for both men and women.
  • When standards are different for men and women because of benefits that may come from partners, organizations’ standards for offering benefits may drop as well.
  • Expectations and treatment of partners differ based on gender.
  • Many of these issues were raised in the last month by President Obama and are also discussed in an article from Slate last year.

These issues are complicated. That doesn’t remove from us the obligation of working to proceed in a more-fair-for-all direction, especially as we encourage egalitarian parenting too.

These issues already exist in our movement. Some have been discussed on RavKav. I believe very strongly that we need to begin to create a system of principles on these issues from which we can negotiate reasonable and fair outcomes in our constituent organizations.

The CCAR is responsible for leading the way on social issues for all of our rabbis. Men must recognize that gender issues are our issues, so that we can truly bring equality to all.

Thanks for reading, if you have so far, I look forward to figuring out ways to participate in moving forward on these issues.

Happy Spring to all,


Rabbi Jonathan Freirich serves as associate rabbi at Temple Beth El in Charlotte, NC.