Social Justice Corner: BCC and the Religious Action Center

Elizabeth Savage and Tracy Moore

Yes! BCC is connecting and active in Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center.

As a member congregation of the Union for Reform Judaism, BCC can participate in the national Religious Action Center (RAC) in Washington, D.C. and the California Religious Action Center (RAC-CA).

This opportunity to connect with Jews and other activists throughout California inspired Tracy Moore and Elizabeth Savage to go to Sacramento on August 7, 2018 for a full day of lobbying legislators and their staff.   The RAC–CA represents 150,000 Reform congregants from across California – and our lobby trip had over 150 adults, with 37 congregations represented and 60 young adults from Jewish summer camps.

The RAC-CA had decided on a priority to lobby on a crucial bill before the Senate, SB-10, a “money bail” reform act. Despite making real progress lobbying in both houses, days after our visit substantial language changes were made to SB-10, to the point that the RAC-CA and others withdrew their support. Whatever the outcome of SB-10, one important result of our engagement was a strong connection to statewide Jewish values-based social justice activism. (Editor’s note: a modified version of the bill recently passed both houses of the Legislature, ending financial ability to post bail as the primary determinant of whether a defendant remains in jail pending trial, substituting judicial discretion regarding potential harm to the community.)

This connection helped us see that in the microcosm of BCC, the concepts of Judaism we all talk about every week can take us out into our community and beyond. The RAC provides BCC many ways to choose as a community how we want to participate in a social movement.

For us, this work is an opportunity to help build a wider social movement. As we learn in the recent book Recharging Judaism: How Civic Engagement is Good for Synagogues, Jews and America, by Rabbi Judith Schindler and Judy Seldin-Cohen, joining statewide or national movements will magnify our efforts and propel our initiatives forward. To overcome today’s threats to democracy, we believe that broad coalitions – such as working with the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center – allow us to organize across separate interest groups.

As best we can, we will report back on issues relevant to BCC on Facebook or in G’vanim. You can keep up on all of this if you sign up for weekly or periodic emails from the RAC and from RAC-CA.

Here are the links where you can learn more:

https://rac.org/

https://rac.org/california-religious-action-center-reform-judaism

Here is the legislative agenda for RAC – CA, entitled “The World We Want CA Legislative Agenda 2018”

https://rac.org/sites/default/files/World%20We%20Want%20CA%20Leg%20Agenda%202018%20Final%20ltrhd%205-23-18.pdf

L’shanah tovah tikateyvu v’tichatemu

May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year

 

A Perspective on the RAC, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

For nearly six decades, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has been a hub of Jewish social justice work. It is a joint instrument of the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

The RAC’s work is mandated by the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 900+ congregations across North America include 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Representatives of these two organizations, as well as the Union’s affiliates, comprise the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, which governs the RAC’s policy positions. As the social justice arm of the Union and the CCAR, the RAC receives approximately 1/3 of its annual operating budget from the Union, 1/3 from program fees, and 1/3 from contributions from individuals and foundations.

The RAC mobilizes around federal, state, and local legislation; supports and develops congregational leaders, and organizes communities to create a world overflowing with justice, compassion, and peace. As part of a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization, its work is completely nonpartisan. ​

RAC-CA (formerly Reform CA) is the Reform movement’s statewide Jewish social justice effort in California.  The RAC-CA announced a new issue agenda for 2018, featuring two central priorities – SB-10 (the money bail reform bill) and the $4 billion housing bond ballot measure – and many other bills and ballot measures.

Becoming a 100% Voting Congregation

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) has launched a national initiative to support each congregation to work toward becoming a 100% Voting Congregation. This initiative was presented to the BCC Board of Directors in August 2018.

What is Jewish About Voter Engagement?

As we work together with the Reform Movement to fulfill the sacred mandate of tikkun olam, repair of the world, voter engagement is essential. As Jews and American citizens, we have an obligation to participate in elections to ensure that policies at the local, state and national levels bring us closer to achieving our vision of a world where all people experience justice, compassion and wholeness. Rabbi Yitzhak taught, “A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (Talmud, Brakhot 55a). To ensure that our voices and commitment to social justice are heard in the public sphere, we must educate ourselves on the voting process, register to vote, and show up at the polls. We also have a responsibility to engage with our wider community to ensure that access to the vote is a reality for all.

How Can Reform Jewish Communities Carry Out Voter Engagement Work?

As part of the RAC’s Civic Engagement campaign, we are encouraging and supporting Reform Jews to lead nonpartisan voter education, registration and turnout initiatives, including committing to becoming 100% voting communities.   Some congregations have tabulated their membership’s voting levels only to be surprised at how low it was.

Toolkit: Resources including suggested activities, program tips and sample materials to help us engage in this work and move towards achieving the goal of 100% voting include:

  • Promoting and conducting voter registration (helping people to register for the first time or update their registration)
  • Educating community members on the importance of voting and the voting process
  • Employing strategies to encourage and increase voter turnout
  • Specifically engaging young and first-time voters

What will we do at BCC?

We will be tracking how much of our congregation – as a whole – is registered. Who is registered to vote is a public record.   Plus you can let us know that you are registered by sending an email to ehsavage@charter.net or to tracymoore@earthlink.net. We’re providing a “success thermometer” report on the BCC Facebook site from now until Election Day.

Plus, at the High Holiday services, we will have voter registration forms for you – and if you want to double check now that you are registered, you can do so at the State of California website

http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration/

For the election on November 6, 2018, your registration must be postmarked or submitted electronically no later than October 22, 2018.

Questions? Contact Elizabeth Savage at ehsavage@charter.net

or Tracy Moore at tracymoore@earthlink.net

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