Judge David Davidson
As a new member of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism (CSA) in 1989, Judge David Davidson expected to attend his first Commission meeting and go through the introductory motions of being “the new guy.” What he never anticipated was becoming the head of a CSA task force within minutes of walking in the door.
At that first meeting, the head of the Israel Task Force had been delayed in getting to town and then-CSA Director Al Vorspan turned to Judge Davidson and said, “I want you to do something for me.” Little did Judge Davidson know that by stepping in to give the presentation, he laid out his own road map for his time on the CSA, which included holding many positions from the head of various task forces to chair of the CSA from 1998-2002.
Judge Davidson grew up at a Conservative synagogue in Springfield, Massachusetts, where no Reform congregation existed until he was in his teens. Once the Reform congregation opened, his parents were so entrenched in their synagogue that they didn’t even consider attending it. Judge Davidson became involved in the Reform Movement when he moved to Maryland and joined Temple Emanuel in Montgomery County, where he has remained a member for over 50 years. He has served on the Temple Emanuel board in a variety of capacities, including President of the congregation. As President of Temple Emanuel, Judge Davidson attended the URJ Biennial Conventions, which he describes as his “first exposure to social action as a national movement.”
Over the years, Judge Davidson has become particularly passionate about economic justice in the United States and the separation of church and state. His interest in economic justice, specifically labor issues, stems from his career as an administrative judge at the National Labor Relations Board.
As CSA Chair, Judge Davidson was a de facto RAC staff member. He would come in to the city most Mondays to participate in the weekly staff meetings, and he formed close bonds with the Eisendrath Legislative Assistants; he fondly remembers working with the LAs as “one of the joys of being part of the Commission.” In fact, when the RAC was transitioning between legislative directors, Judge Davidson acted as an informal supervisor for the Legislative Assistants, which he says taught him that the RAC and social action are “very important parts of the Reform Movement in maintaining the engagement of young people.”
In reflecting on the RAC’s 50-year history, Judge Davidson says he hopes to see the RAC embrace the “challenge of 50 states” and become as successful and prominent on state and local advocacy as it is on the federal level. Just as the RAC has shaped the Reform Jewish voice on social action for the last 50 years, so too has social action shaped who Judge Davidson has become over the last 50 years—and given the immense dedication and commitment Judge Davidson has given to the RAC so far, one can only hope that partnership continues for the next 50 years.