June 27, 2022
As I sit down to write this note, it’s Friday afternoon of what will be the first weekend of real summer weather we’ve had in Seattle this year. I can’t help but be struck by the dichotomy between this beautiful day and the sadness and fear hovering in the aftermath of this morning’s Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning Roe v. Wade.
It’s not often that I publicly share my personal views about issues that face our community. That is a consequence of my position as JCRC Director. Last week, for example, I was interviewed by the Canadian public affairs program “As it Happens” about the $1.5 million settlement given to the former Assistant Police Chief in Kent. Catherine Cullen, the reporter interviewing me, said I’d spoken a lot about how our community is dealing with the settlement. Then she asked, “But how do you feel personally about it?”
Out of dozens of questions from reporters over that week, this was the question that tripped me up.
Because I spend so much time considering issues from a Jewish communal perspective and working through the most appropriate and effective position and action of our JCRC and Federation, often my personal opinions are not fully formed. Sometimes, I think this is good because it makes me stop, listen to a wide range of views, and refine my thinking. Other times, I’m concerned it’s detrimental because I know that leaders must be able to step forward with conviction.
There are instances, however, when there is no ambiguity—recognizing that in my position I need to be selective about when I express my personal views and respectful of our communal positions. Today was one of those days.
When I pause to reflect on today’s Supreme Court decision, tears fill my eyes. I cry for the women in states where access to abortion will no longer be available and who don’t have the means to travel. I cry for the divided place our nation is in. I cry for my daughter, who, though only two years old, will certainly be impacted by this.
At six months pregnant with our second child (and my focus constantly interrupted by kicks from our little one), I am acutely aware of the way lines on an at-home pregnancy test can immediately and drastically alter the course of one’s life. The thought that there are women for whom there would be no recourse from the result —regardless of age, circumstances, sexual abuse or violence, makes me sick to my stomach.
So what is the appropriate response for our JCRC at this time and for me as its Director? Listen, learn, reflect, and act.
Over these past few weeks, our JCRC’s professional team has learned about various halachic perspectives on abortion and weighed these in the context of our JCRC’s mission, vision, and values, how Jewish law is and is not relevant to U.S. law, and what the core concerns of our American Jewish community are on this issue. We reached out and listened to various community members from across the political and religious spectrum to gain understanding of their thoughts, feelings, and position. We have tried to find consensus.
One result of this is our JCRC’s Statement. I’m proud of the work our team put into crafting this statement. I deeply believe it reflects the consensus of our JCRC’s 32 member institutions and 21 individual leaders.
So what can we do?
Speak Out – Share our JCRC’s statement through your social media channels and with your family and friends.
Learn – Watch this informative webinar from the JCRC of Greater Washington featuring rabbinic perspectives from various streams of Judaism on access to reproductive rights.
Act – Check out this comprehensive toolkit from the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) for ways to get involved protecting reproductive rights.
Donate – There are many Jewish funds to provide support to individuals and communities where abortion is not available. Do some research and consider making a gift to one that resonates with you.
I appreciate that each of us approaches this issue personally and I understand that my perspective and reflections may differ from others. Yet, I believe that as part of the Jewish community, there are areas on which we can reach consensus. Wanting to practice our religion freely, caring for Jews here and everywhere around the world, pursuing justice, and upholding human dignity – these are the values that bind us as a people.
Our JCRC will always be a place where we can come together to deepen our understanding and respect for one another. We will foster and promote civil discourse on issues critical to the American Jewish Community, including abortion. It is one of the main reasons we were founded and will continue to be a focus area moving forward. The relationships we are forging across differences in our Jewish community bring us one step toward bridging a growing divide in our nation. This is something that can be central to our leadership and future together.
Director of JCRC and Government Affairs