Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
A packed church of nearly 1,500 people gathered in unity to demand social justice. We came together from different faith backgrounds and secular communities, those who live in the city and those who live in the suburbs, from various economic backgrounds, black, white, Hispanic, and Asian. We were one community. We represented more than 100,000 people from our member organizations and we joined together for a common purpose. We’d been working behind the scenes on proposals to help strengthen our community and seek criminal justice reform, including decreasing overcharging for nonviolent drug offenders and the creation of mental health crisis centers to offer treatment to those who are mentally ill instead of incarceration. We committed ourselves to creating 1,000 new livable wage jobs. We comforted each other about the current tenor in our country, and lifted each other up with promises of action. We will not give up. We will join together to create positive change. Our elected officials were present, committing themselves to working with us, and we will hold them and ourselves accountable on reaching our goals. (See story here).
I was inspired and challenged by my preacher brothers and sisters and rabbinic colleagues who joined me in this call for justice. They are my mentors and I am emboldened knowing I am not alone in this fight.
We learn from our Jewish values that we must not remain silent. “You shall surely rebuke your neighbor!” (Lev 19:17) our sacred text reads. When someone is acting or speaking in a harmful way, it is imperative that we do not stand by idly (Lev 19:16). It is imperative that we call them out on their behavior or words for the betterment of all those in our society. When systems are in place that intentionally target and oppress any group of people, we are obligated to act to reform those systems (e.g., Why We Need to Move Away From Jailing the Mentally Ill, Federal Drug Sentencing Laws Bring High Cost Low Return).
We cannot be passive. As partners with God, we are empowered to create the more perfect world we all seek. We will not let hatred, bigotry, or the sin of indifference take hold in our community, our city, or our nation. We were 1,500 strong. We are more than 100,000 strong. Add your voice to ours and we will continue to grow in strength and power. There are many national organizations that are taking up the fight: Bend the Arc, T’ruah, the Religious Action Center, ACLU, ADL, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, Equal Justice Initiative, and more. Together, we will create the world as it should be. Be part of the solution, today.
Rabbi Melinda Mersack is the Director of jHUB, which provides new ways for interfaith couples and families to comfortably explore Jewish culture in the modern world, a program of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland and an InterfaithFamily affiliate. Rabbi Mersack is proud to be a Rabbis Without Borders Fellow and a Brickner Fellow of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Rabbi Mersack attends summer camp as visiting faculty every year, and is an advocate for interreligious dialogue and social justice. She holds a B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, and a Masters of Hebrew Letters and ordination from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.