High Holidays Inspiration from Rabbis Organizing Rabbis



by Rabbi Erica Seager Asch

As we enter the month of Elul, we are aware that Tishrei is almost upon us. Sitting in front of our computers, we might think to ourselves “Stop mulling and just write the sermon!” But writing High Holiday sermons really does require that we ponder what to preach. Every year, we ask ourselves the same questions: what message will resonate with our congregants, what are we passionate about saying, and what wisdom do our texts and tradition have to offer us.

This year, there is a new question to add to the list. In the past, I did not think much about what my colleagues were saying in their sermons. I might check in with a few friends, or bounce ideas off some people, but I was never speaking as part of the North American Reform Movement. This year, it will be different.

In 5774, like many colleagues, I will be speaking about the topic of immigration reform. This issue calls to us as Jews. We are immigrants. We fled slavery in Egypt to journey into freedom. More recently my great-grandparents fled the pogroms and mandatory military service in Russia to find a better life here in the United States. We know what it is to wander and to be treated as outsiders.

We also have a chance to make a real difference. The Senate has passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The House will be debating moving a bill to the floor in September, perfect timing for us to have an impact. Imagine what hundreds of rabbis can do together as we preach or teach about immigration reform this High Holidays.

I’m going to be honest and say that while immigration reform is not my issue, justice is. Acting together powerfully is vital to who I am as a rabbi and who we are as Reform Jews.  At the CCAR Convention in Long Beach, we asked the question: Do we want to act together as a Reform Movement? The answer was a resounding yes, as hundreds of colleagues across the country joined the efforts of Rabbis Organizing Rabbis, a project of the Reform Movement’s social justice initiatives: the Justice and Peace Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Religious Action Center, and Just Congregations.  Since then, we have worked on passing legislation through the Senate. Teams of colleagues in seven states met with key swing senators and their staffs. Many of us gathered in Washington DC for a lobby day, or participated in a national call-in day. Nearly 400 of us are staying connected through the Rabbis Organizing Rabbis Facebook group. We have worked together to amplify the rabbinic voice for justice, but there is more work to do.

Now we have another chance to act together to make a real difference in the debate in the House. In the weeks to come, we’ll share more with you about which legislators are crucial to the passage of compassionate, common sense immigration reform. But in the short term, there is something that only we as rabbis can do: speak from the heart to our congregants about this defining issue of our times.

So, will you join our effort and make preaching and teaching about immigration reform part of your High Holidays this year? To make it as easy as possible we have compiled text resources and sample sermons. If you are a rabbi who is willing to join the effort, please share your thoughts and plans on the Rabbis Organizing Rabbis Facebook group so we can log your participation. And it never hurts to reach out to another colleague or two to ask them to join us as well.

As we move into Tishrei we have the opportunity to begin our year by speaking out for justice. Join us in showing our legislators, our congregants and ourselves what it means to be part of a national movement and to put justice at the center of the Reform rabbinate.

Rabbi Erica Seager Asch received ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.

Originally published at RavBlog, the blog of the Central Conference of American Rabbis

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