Rain, Bones and Reproductive Justice
Machon Kaplan is an internship program run by the Religious Action Center for undergraduate students interested in the intersection of Judaism and social justice. Every summer, the Machon Kaplan program places students in internships at a wide variety of advocacy organizations in Washington, D.C., ranging from the NAACP to the Center for Middle East Peace, and offers regular workshops and community activities at the RAC. You can follow their experiences this summer at the MKBlog feed.
Welcome to my first day in D.C. When the RAC’s Rabbi Michael Namath called to tell me I’d be interning at the RAC all those weeks ago, amid all my uncertainties and unanswered questions about my internship in Washington, D.C., I knew there was one thing I could expect with certainty: adventure. I knew I would have the opportunity to learn about and advocate for a wide variety of people and issues while working at the RAC. And on my very first day, I proved myself right. I visited an anti-genocide art installation on the National Mall and a panel on queer reproductive justice all in the same afternoon.
After trudging through the rain and humidity, through the Ellipse (I even picked up some D.C. lingo on this adventure) and to the National Mall, we came upon a display of One Million Bones, presented by The Art of Revolution. The dramatic public installation of paper mache, rubber, duct tape and plastic bones were scattered across the National Mall to raise awareness about current genocides – in Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Burma. The One Million Bones movement took their message beyond the mall and into the halls of Congress as volunteers participated in the movement’s lobby day on Monday, June 10: “Take a Bone to Congress.”
As is frequently the case at the RAC, our afternoon adventure quickly changed directions, and I found myself on the metro’s red line, headed towards the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice to attend a panel on LGBT reproductive justice.
In a room filled with actively engaged, and slightly damp, progressive thinkers from organizations all over the city, these open and wise powerhouse advocates for reproductive justice highlighted the injustices in reproductive health that exists for the LGBT community – a community often overlooked in conversations around reproductive health. Members of the LGBT community, who need the same vital access to the reproductive health services as their heterosexual counterparts, have been devastatingly limited in obtaining it. Kierra Johnson, executive director of ChoiceUSA reminded us that, “Everybody and every BODY needs to be valued.”
Her message echoes the Jewish value, b’tselem Elohim, all humans are created in the image of god; an individual’s identity or sexual orientation does not change this. Kierra’s message is an important one for us to remember, as every human deserves equal access to reproductive health services.
The panel was powerful and brought to light an issue I knew next to nothing about before coming to Washington. I am thrilled today’s adventure is just the beginning of my summer in D.C., working for an organization that stops at nothing to bring about social justice, not even the rain.
Lizzie Stein is a rising sophomore at Occidental College. She is originally from Phoenix, AZ, and belongs to Temple Kol Ami.