Our Teens Speak Truth To Power

Eleven of our amazing high school students attended the L’Taken Social Justice Seminar at the Religious Action Center in D.C. in February to learn about the Reform Jewish perspective on contemporary issues and prepare to lobby our representatives on Capitol Hill regarding issues they are passionate about!

In a democracy like the United States, all rights begin with the right to vote.

As Reform Jews and American citizens, we believe the right to vote is too important to interfere with. When a minority community is disenfranchised, detrimental impacts can be felt. Jews have constantly been oppressed, from the Spanish Inquisition in 1478, to the not so distant Holocaust.

The Talmud states, “A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted (B’rachot 55a).” Everyone should have a vote in determining how their community is governed, as the government affects everyone. As Jews, we cannot idly stand by when voting restriction disproportionately affects poor and minority communities.

We ask you to please co-sponsor the Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 2978/S. 1419) when it is reintroduced again in the 116th Congress to prove you are committed to ensuring the right to vote while justice is still a work in progress.

-Sophie Rhodes

At 2.3 million, the United States has the highest prison population in the world.  Just as alarming is the racial disparity that accompanies the issue. African Americans are far more likely to be imprisoned for drug crimes than white people, despite the minuscule difference in the sale and usage rates between the races.

It is our moral imperative to fight for compassionate and equitable practices at every level of our criminal justice system. Criminal justice reform is specifically important to us as Jews because our Torah teaches “Tzedek tzedek tirdof — Justice, justice you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20).

In my mind, I have always pictured gang members as big, at least 20 years old, and very strong. The boy standing in front of me was none of the above. He was 16, not much bigger than I was, and not much stronger than me either. While I worried about my schoolwork, I could not even imagine what this child was worrying about. I could not understand why someone who was so similar to me, aside from where he lived and the color of his skin, leads such a different life.

We would like to thank Senator Durbin for his support around this issue in the past. As a member of the 115th Congress, he introduced the First Step Act, a monumental bipartisan criminal justice bill.

We also thank the senator for cosponsoring the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act (S.411), demonstrating his commitment to improving police-community relations and ensuring the safety of all people.

-Sander Brissman, Eli Perlin & Aidan Rappaport

For some people in different communities, gun violence is just something that rarely happens, but for many, it is a fact of life. It has been normalized to the point where it is preventing action for stricter gun laws. Gun violence has become so normal that when we watch the news or get a notification on our phones of a mass shooting we say ‘not another one’ and go on with our day. This is not okay.

What is even more appalling is the number of idle bystanders in light of these horrid actions.  This lack of response only disobeys the Torah.  Leviticus 19:16 states, “do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.”  We as a society cannot disregard the thousands of annual injuries and deaths of innocent people.

Today, we stand for the victims of mass shootings, we stand for the victims of school shootings, we stand for people like Trayvon Martin and Gustavo Garcia. We stand for Chicago’s deadly 2016,  We stand for the innocent victims of gun violence who died because America didn’t take action when we should have after the first mass shootings.

Thank you for cosponsoring the *Durbin: Background Check Expansion Act (S.42) and Quigley: Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R.8).

-Chloe Young, Sara Fleishman & Leo Daly

The Union for Reform Judaism has been a longstanding supporter of equality for

members of the LGBTQ community. All the way back in 1977, the URJ explicitly stated that they would support equal rights for homosexual men and women.

At the 2015 URJ Biennial Conference in Orlando, Florida, the URJ passed a resolution that explicitly affirmed the organization’s belief in the importance of full acceptance and equality for all people that are a part of the LGBTQ community.

Torah itself consistently teaches that all people are made in the image of God, and to accept those that are different from you, for we ourselves (the Jewish people) have been the different ones.

We would like to thank Representative Davis for supporting the Equality Act in the 115th

Congress, and we implore him to support it once again in hopes of getting it passed.

-Zoe Okun & Lela Zerman

90% of U.S energy is not from renewable sources. All of the coal, natural gas, and petroleum plants which is what most of our energy is made from are not only polluting the earth but causing serious health effects to the population. Climate change disproportionately affects poor people of color.

Being a part of the Jewish faith comes with countless responsibilities and a moral compass comprised of good values. It comes with an innate sense of obligation to the Jewish community, but the larger world around us as well. The Talmud states that “If there is a needy person among you… do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your kin. Rather, you must open your hand and lend whatever is sufficient” (Deuteronomy 15: 7-11)

We live in Chicago and as you may know, we recently experienced a polar vortex. Temperatures dropped to -44 degrees which had detrimental effects on the homeless and low-income population.

In hopes of the reintroduction of the 100 by ‘50 Act known previously in the 115th Congress as (Schakowsky- 43314) (Duckworth- 987), we ask you to vote in solidarity as we continue to fight for progress in the realm of climate change.

-Rebecca Schnitz & Hannah Revels