I experienced a profound moment of clarity Monday afternoon. Attending Reform Jewish Voice of New York State (RJV) Advocacy Day in Albany, I listened intently as Rabbi Linda Goodman of Union Temple in Brooklyn affirmed the Reform Jewish values undergirding our Movement’s advocacy for reproductive choice while speaking to her state Senator. Though her words were persuasive and meaningful, it was the silent but amplified power of her position that resonated so deeply. That a female rabbi, a leader of the Jewish people, had chosen to devote her day to championing the cause of reproductive health spoke volumes about a battle that many mistakenly believe has been won. Sadly, the struggle continues.
In 2012, as we celebrate 40 years of women in the rabbinate, we also mark 42 years since the passage of trailblazing pro-choice New York state legislation that has now grown stale. The time is long overdue for New York to treat the regulation of abortion as an issue of public health and medical practice, rather than as a potential crime, as it still stands in the state’s penal code. With threats to overturn federal protections of reproductive choice intensifying, it’s incumbent upon reproductive health advocates in New York to ensure that our state constitution protects a woman’s right to choose. Seeing women like Rabbi Goodman, Rabbi Marci Bellows of Temple B’nai Torah in Wantagh and RJV co-chair Rabbi Jennifer Jaech of Temple Israel of Northern Westchester devote their limited free time to voicing support for this issue and others reminds me why we began ordaining women 40 years ago.