Our sacred books are replete with rules and guidelines for all sorts of activities and behaviors that govern our religious life. They told us how high to build altars for sacrificing animals. They told us how to renew Jewish ritual after the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. They tell us what food is kosher and what isn’t.
Our Torah is comprehensive.
But where our sacred books are less specific and can only provide guidance is where there are some of the most important issues of our time.
So, while we have centuries of tradition on why we eat matzah on Passover, the tradition doesn’t speak specifically to Jewish views on affirmative action, or charter schools, or nuclear waste.
But, with our tradition as our guide, we are working on discovering as a national Jewish community where we stand.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is the umbrella organization for 125 JCRCs from around the country plus 17 national organizations. Every year in advance of our national conference we are asked to weigh in on different issues and these responses are codified in resolutions to be considered at the JCPA conference.
Once these resolutions are approved by the consensus of the Jewish community, they are then added to a policy compendium that Jewish communities throughout North America can reference to determine what the national Jewish opinion on a topic is.
The compendium is comprehensive and covers a large range of topics but, as the national and global discourse is forever changing, there are always going to be new resolutions to consider. This year, we were approached with six timely resolutions that we fully expect to pass in some form.
One resolution dealt with the treatment of the Uighur people in China who face horrible discrimination and even genocide. Another addressed renewing our community’s commitment to combat climate change. Two resolutions are direct responses to our most recent elections, with one opposing the 200-plus bills under consideration in state legislatures around the country that would suppress votes of minorities, while the other calls for politicians to put their country ahead of their political affiliations. Another resolution calls specifically for the Jewish community to strengthen our relationship with the African American community.
The final resolution commends the Abraham Accords, which has led to peace agreements between Israel and some of her Middle East neighbors.
These resolutions are timely, important and will serve as guides for us as we move forward with both advocacy and community relations. I am proud to be affiliated with an organization that is responding to pressing issues of our country, world, and Israel. Our response and use of these resolutions is important for our friends in different communities to see where we stand. When they see how our policy guides us, they get an understanding of what Jewish values mean, how tikun olam influences us profoundly, how we turn our values into tangible action.
(Matt Goldberg is director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.)