Now is the Time for Action

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Now is the Time for Action

Cantor Jason Kaufman

Early this summer, I represented the ACC as part of a URJ delegation of clergy, protesting and bearing witness in McAllen, Texas to the atrocity of child detention centers. Alongside distinguished interfaith clergy from around the country, our intention was to shed a light onto the shame that is occurring and articulate our clear opposition to this misguided and immoral policy. 

We can be proud that The Union for Reform Judaism, as well as numerous other religious institutions of diverse faiths from around the country, came out strongly against this policy. 

I left McAllen full of emotion.  My heart aches for what is occurring. However, we do not have the luxury of living in despair. This moment calls for action. We, people of privilege and power, must fight against policies which we don’t just disagree with, but diminish the humanity and morality of our country. 

We need to be strategic. We must simultaneously do everything we can to help and affect change in the short term for those in need and at the same time we must keep our eyes to the future to ensure that this chapter of U.S. history will not define us for generations.  As long as there are leaders governing this nation who do not share our basic values of human decency, these instances will continue.

With that in mind, I want to encourage us all to become actively involved with the RAC Civic Engagement Campaign, of which I’m proud to serve as co-chair. The Civic Engagement Campaign is a non-partisan effort to high voter involvement in the upcoming November election: Voter Engagement, Candidate Engagement, and Ballot Initiatives, (in states where this is applicable).  Go to  https://rac.org/rac-civic-engagement-campaign to receive a Civic Engagement toolkit and to learn tips on how you can be most effective as a leader in your community in empowering your congregation to be engaged in the November elections. 

The upcoming midterm elections are critical.  This election season may be the most consequential election season of our lifetime.  We must show up and must make certain that our values are represented. 

We, as cantors, are blessed to work in communities comprised of people who want to contribute to this kind of work and are looking for opportunities to do so through a Jewish lens. Every synagogue is different and every synagogue should create a plan that works best for their needs. At Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria Virginia, where I serve as cantor, we have created a voter engagement leadership committee, which has devised a strategy for what our election involvement will look like.  We are fortunate that we already have a strong culture of candidate engagement, having already had numerous issue forums throughout the year focusing on areas of concern in our community.  For this upcoming November, we’ve determined that, for us, the best way we can be engaged in the upcoming elections is to work towards becoming a 100% voting community.  We will be doing this by reaching out, in numerous ways, to each member family, to see that if they are registered, need help registering, ensuring that they have a way of getting to their polling station, and by doing strategic Election Day reminders. 

I want to encourage all of us to be having these conversations on our synagogues and determine the right course of action and strategy for our communities.  After doing so, report back to the RAC Civic engagement campaign, online, so the others can be inspired by your work and so we can celebrate your community. 

Much of the daily news is upsetting and can become overwhelming.  We must not get discouraged.  Every time we feel as if we are getting discouraged, let's find a way to involve ourselves deeper in the Civic Engagement Campaign.  This is how we can show that we have learned from our own Jewish history to create a better future for our country.