NCJW : The NCJW Insider

NCJW Inspired Me to Get Out the Vote

By Ahuva Sunshine

One year ago I began my journey through law school. I spent virtually all of my time as a first-year law student diving headfirst into legal casebooks and arguments, learning how to navigate the complexities of law school and the law itself (or at least how to at least keep my head above water).  

During my spring break I had the immense privilege of attending NCJW’s Washington Institute for the first time.  At the conference I was able to take impactful political action on many of the issues I had recently studied and become passionate about. Along with the Ohio Delegation, I visited the offices of both of my senators as well as my representative in the House.  Together we fought to restore voting rights protections, increase funding to provide critical services to survivors of human trafficking, and ensure abortion coverage to women enrolled in federal health plans and programs. We also urged our senators to support holding a hearing for Judge Garland.  

Taking concrete political action with a group of progressive Jewish advocates at Washington Institute reinforced why I enrolled in law school in the first place: to use law as a tool to create progressive change on an individual and societal level. 

NCJW’s focus on political action inspired me to empower others to take political action of their own; this past summer I volunteered to register people to vote.  Conversing with strangers on the importance of making their voices heard and persuading them to register was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.  The excitement inherent in becoming involved in our democracy’s political process for the first time is infectious; people gathered around to cheer on and congratulate individuals registering.  

The stakes could not be higher in this election. While the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) has protected voting rights around the country for the past 50 years, it was gutted by the US Supreme Court in 2013 in its decision in Shelby County v. Holder. States and local governments have since passed and implemented restrictive laws threatening access to the polls for millions of eligible voters, disproportionately impacting voters of color, women voters, young voters, low-income voters, voters with disabilities, and voters who rely on languages other than English. This will be the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.

That’s why we need to get out the vote. If we care about our democracy, we need to make sure that everyone has a voice in our political process. With so much at stake, from criminal justice reform to abortion access to judicial nominations, everyone deserves to be heard. I’ll be doing my part as a law student, and I know NCJW advocates across the country will be doing their part as well. Join us.

Resources to Get Out the Vote:

  • Check out NCJW’s voter video to inspire your work!
  • Volunteer to be a poll monitor.
  • Share state-specific election information on social media using these handy graphics.
  • Make a plan to vote! Ask this question to friends, family members, and people in your community. Make sure everyone you ask has a plan to vote early, vote absentee, or get to the polls on November 8.

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Ahuva Sunshine is a second-year law student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  She is President of the Jewish Law Students Association and Vice President of Marketing and Communications of the Women’s Legal Society.

On Succot and Strong Women at the Table

By Dani Kogan, NCJW Community Outreach and Communications Intern

As far back as I can remember, the holiday of Succot was my favorite to celebrate. Even though it takes place as the weather starts to get colder, being outside in a small succah outside full of family, friends, and hot soup was an antidote to the chilly fall  temperature. It struck me as funny how, despite Passover being the meal where Jews are to welcome guests who need a meal, Succot turned into the day where I was told to bring my friends over after services. I have so many vivid memories of me and my middle school girl friends sitting around in our yards, eating the brownies we made before chag, leftovers, and whatever else we could find in our respective pantries – we raided each other’s like they were our own. We sat on the ground playing monopoly and talking until it got dark, and then made plans to do it again the next day.

We had a built in system encouraging us to do this. One of the most beautiful traditions of Succot is that of the Ushpizin: welcoming in “guests” into our succah – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Aaron, Moses, and David. Even better, there has been a tradition around since the medieval ages to invite women guests into our succah. It is less clear amongst Jews who these women are, though the list usually includes Eve, Miriam, Sarah, Hannah, Esther, Deborah, Ruth, and Leah. 

All of the fictional guests are based off of the idea that each one brings with them a quality or characteristic that we want to bring into our lives. The tradition ties back to the idea that there are seven divine characteristics, roughly translated as Love, Strength, Truth, Endurance, Splendor, Connection, and Leadership. Though I may be somewhat biased, I find that each of these biblical women capture multiple divine characteristics – far more than the men. However, no individual woman seems to fully encompass every single characteristic, in much the same way that I don’t shine in every one of these qualities myself. What I felt and still continue to feel sitting in the succah with all of my friends is that we all bring our own best parts to the (literal) table – and that makes for a balanced and deep conversation.

One of the beautiful things about being a college student now, as opposed to a seventh grader, is that I can tell my strengths from my weaknesses. And knowing your strengths is key. I think the same lesson can be applied to how we approach making broader change in society, especially in the upcoming election with women’s basic rights at stake. If we unite as women and bring our collective strengths to the (figurative) table, we create something incredibly powerful. We also must keep in mind that we should embrace every woman in the fight for our rights, regardless of race, sexuality, ability, class, age: each brings her own characteristics and strengthens the whole that much more. And with that bold vision for women’s unity comes a future that looks brighter than ever, where we can use our individual strengths in ways we never dreamed of.

Advancing Abortion Access to Ensure Religious Liberty

By Rabbi Jeffrey Gale*

Ever since the US Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade in 1973, which legalized abortion in the United States, anti-abortion activists have been working hard to restrict access to abortion care. From coverage bans to mandatory waiting periods, states have enacted over 1,000 abortion restrictions in the 43 years since Roe. Of these, 288 have been enacted just since 2010. 

Just a few months ago, in its ruling on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court overturned two Texas restrictions which sought to limit access to abortion by requiring that doctors have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and render themselves ambulatory outpatient surgical centers. Because most of the clinics could not meet either one or both of these requirements, only ten clinics would remain. In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the law imposes an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to end her pregnancy.   

The Roe v. Wade decision emphasized that the theological beliefs of a specific group of people cannot be imposed upon an entire, diverse population. It states:

We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer. 

Much of the crusade against abortion is posited on the belief that America was founded as a Christian nation whose mission is to promote one specific interpretation of Christian values. Many social conservatives would argue that if the founding fathers were here today, they would tell us so.  

Here’s John Adams in the treaty of Tripoli: [T]he government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.

And here’s Thomas Jefferson: Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions.  Jefferson further stated: It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

I am deeply concerned when a specific religious theology becomes the cornerstone of public policy. As we all know, back alley abortions have caused untold suffering to thousands of women, not to mention all those forced to carry pregnancies to term against their wishes.  

Sadly, September 30th marked the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment. First authorized by Congress in 1976, Hyde bans abortion coverage for individuals enrolled in Medicaid. It is explicitly designed to deny abortion access to low-income women, disproportionately harming women of color, immigrant women, young people, and transgender or gender nonconforming individuals. Our government should support women’s health and offer the full-range or pregnancy related care, including abortion.  

By restricting access to abortion and, at the same time, not providing adequate services for women who choose to give birth, our government espouses the belief, de facto, that life begins with conception and ends with birth. Instead of politicians defining what the ideal family should look like, they would do well to support all family constellations.  

The separation of church and state emphasizes religious co-existence. It is the moderate path between religious warfare and the imposition of a single theological system upon an entire country. Strongly held religious views strictly belong within our respective faith communities. 

In the New Year, 5777, may we strive to echo the values of our ancestors – to proclaim the message of pluralism, tolerance, and dignity.

*This blog was excerpted and adapted from Rabbi Gale’s Rosh Hashanah sermon at the Hebrew Tabernacle in New York City.

 

Rabbi Jeffrey Gale, ordained by Leo Baeck College in London, England is currently the spiritual leader at the Hebrew Tabernacle in New York City. He takes great interest in social causes and interfaith relations. He recently published a novel, The Ballad of East and West, which falls under the category of historical fiction. Although it focuses on Soviet Jewry and East West relations in the 1980s, the book is a metaphor for the coming together of diverse cultures and a plea for international understanding.

Loving the Stranger is Just the Beginning

By Faith Fried, Legislative Associate

Judaism teaches us to love the stranger, for once we were strangers in the land of Egypt. I’ve drawn from this teaching over the past year, as refugee resettlement became highly controversial. However, recent advocacy efforts this past summer reminded me that the reasons to support refugees go beyond the biblical.

On August 28, 2016, NCJW, as a part of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, co-sponsored the DC Rally for Refugees, an event that took place on the National Mall in the shadow of the Washington Monument. I tabled in the resource tent for the first two hours, and then was free to experience the rally. As I found a spot in the shade, musicians, poets, advocates, speakers, and dancers took the stage to express their support for refugees. Some were refugees, others were the sons and daughters of those who had fled to the United States seeking better lives, and others simply supported the cause. I was moved by Lubana Al Quntar, the first Syrian opera singer and refugee, who treated us to a Metropolitan Opera caliber performance for free. I clapped and cheered as Sham Hasan, a refugee from Iraq who worked for the US Army as an interpreter, shared his story coming to the US in 2014. And I couldn’t help but tap my feet to the catchy Running (Refugee Song), featuring Gregory Porter, Common, Keyon Harrold and Andrea Pizziconi.

Reflecting on the rally, I realized that welcoming the stranger might be the first reason why we, progressive Jews, should welcome refugees to our country. But it is not the last. The writers, poets, dancers, and singers who performed were examples of how my own life is enriched — how the fabric of our nation is enriched — when we open our arms to refugees from around the world.

Watch the full DC Rally for Refugees here.

Lift Hyde, Because Every Human Being is Made in the Image of God

By Jenna Shaw

As a child of a gynecologist, I was raised to reject the stigma surrounding women’s health and reproductive rights. Words surrounding these issues were not taboo — dinner conversations frequently covered topics ranging from the anatomy of the female body, to the newest methods of contraception, to Judaism’s views on abortion and sex. I grew up with an awareness of the complexities of women’s health and the dire need for access to coverage. But I also soon realized that the conversations to which I had grown accustomed were a rarity.

Medically accurate information and non-judgmental discussion of women’s health and reproductive rights are often silenced and stigmatized. Access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare is limited based on socioeconomic status. And while everyone has the right to make their own decision about their body, life, and future, this is often not the reality.

One way our country limits access to reproductive healthcare is the federal Hyde Amendment, which denies access to abortion coverage for women enrolled in Medicaid and most other federal health plans and programs. Hyde is most harmful to people already struggling to make ends meet, who are disproportionately people of color, young people, immigrants, and transgender and gender nonconforming people. September 30, 2016 marked its 40th anniversary.

As I think through the horrific legacy left by Hyde, I can’t help but think back to one of the many lessons I learned from my dad. He would constantly reiterate the importance of never turning anyone away from care. I feel a call to action rooted in my commitment to following in my dad’s footsteps.

I am also called to action by my commitment to living out the values of Torah. The Torah portion we read on the 40th anniversary of Hyde was Ki Tavo (When You Enter). The Israelites were about to enter the land of Israel when Moses, who was not joining them, provided a list of commandments they were to obey in their new home. One such law was to regularly give their surplus produce to “the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow, so they may eat to satiety in your cities.” (26:11-12)

The Israelites were strangers in the land, and yet they were still commanded to ensure that the marginalized amongst them had everything they needed to survive and thrive. This was not simply about the produce; it was about solidarity and connection.  As is constantly mentioned in the Torah, no person is beneath another, as all human beings are made in the image of God.

In 21st century America, connection is about opening a conversation and providing others with the power of knowledge like my father gave to me when I was younger.  It is about access and humility and the understanding that every person deserves equitable opportunities and resources. The movement to lift the Hyde Amendment and all bans that deny coverage for abortion to low-income women is opening up a conversation that has been silenced for too long, and will ultimately provide access to healthcare to thousands who have been denied.

As a Legislative Intern at NCJW I’ve been honored to watch the opening of such conversation. I have seen as 36 faith based groups have called on Congress to pass the EACH Woman Act, a bill that would end bans that deny abortion coverage to individuals based on their income or insurance. I have participated in a flash mob in front of the White House to raise awareness. I have read through names of petitioners from every state in the union calling on Congress to lift Hyde, and witnessed as college students have raised their voices to educate their peers. People of all ages are coming together to open this conversation and ensure access for every person to the health care and information they deserve.

Bio:

Jenna Shaw, originally from Chicago Illinois, is a senior at American University double majoring in Economics and Judaic Studies. Her passions lie within the intersections of gender, justice, and religious law and she hopes to pursue a career in the Rabbinate after graduation.  She is the current Legislative Intern for NCJW.

Pronouns: She/her/hers

This Is What an Abortion Access Supporter Looks Like

By Kate Friedman, former NCJW Legislative Intern

Last month’s All Access Concert, held at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio and hosted by a number of grassroots advocacy organizations, was an empowering night filled with an eclectic mix of comedians, advocates, and artists. As a native Clevelander, young Jewish woman, former NCJW legislative intern, and passionate supporter of abortion access, I couldn’t miss this event. Although the main concert took place in Cleveland, there were four satellite concerts, and additional local events across the country. The concert was conceived to both celebrate our multi-generational, diverse collective power, and to unite for a common goal: expanding abortion access for all.

As I looked around the concourse outside the arena, I could feel the growing sense of excitement and knew this concert would be something special. People of every race, age, and gender identity raced from table to table, collecting buttons from SisterSong and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum; laptop stickers from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and Advocates for Youth; and t-shirts emblazoned with “Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights!” from the Center for Reproductive Rights. The NCJW table was surrounded by concert-goers taking pictures in front of the green and blue logo. One woman held a sign reading “I’m a Jewish woman & I call on Congress to support abortion access with the EACH Woman Act!” and another held up a “People of Faith Support Abortion Access” poster.

The concert itself was an emotional and beautiful show of strength. Patient advocates wrote a poem declaring: “We are the experts of our own bodies.” Comedian Leslie Jones hilariously talked about her teenage years and her support of Planned Parenthood and (rightly) noted that “if men could have babies we wouldn’t even be here right now.” Former Nevada State Assembly Member Lucy Flores spoke of her tough childhood and stressed that she does not regret her decision to have an abortion. And reproductive justice advocate Renee Bracey Sherman told the audience that she refused to “wear the veil of stigma.” Singers Natalia LaFourcade, Teyana Taylor, and Sia gave inspired performances to close out the night.

I looked around the arena throughout the evening and was moved to see people of all different ages, gender identities, sexual orientations, ethnicities, races, and abilities come together for a common goal: expand abortion access for all. Yes, the Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt decision— issued this past summer by the U.S. Supreme Court and struck down anti-abortion laws in Texas—was a huge gain in the fight for abortion access, but we still have a ways to go. Woman of color, low-income women, and LGBTQ folks still face a number of barriers to obtaining the reproductive health care they need. And just recently, a ballot issue was proposed in Ohio that would not only make abortion illegal with no exceptions, but classify it as aggravated murder punishable by 15 years to life in prison.

But on that night in Cleveland, we permitted ourselves to celebrate too: thousands of fellow abortion access supporters and I cheered and cried and sang in response to all that we’d accomplished thus far. One particular snapshot of the night will always stay with me: a woman and her young son, sitting in the first row just a few feet from the stage. He was transfixed as comedian and host Jessica Williams declared that “a right in theory is not a right at all.” He listened as activists affirmed that “everyone loves someone who’s had an abortion. They just might not know it yet.” And as strong woman after strong woman told the audience they were not ashamed of their abortions, and as his mother cheered and cheered, the boy took it all in. And it struck me that this is how change happens in the fight for reproductive justice: parents teaching their children that women are the owners of their own bodies, and that they are strong, empowered, and deserve our trust.

 

Protecting the Right to Vote in Texas

By Elaine Bernstein,
Texas State Policy Advocacy Co-Chair, National Council of Jewish Women, Inc.
Co-Vice President of Public Affairs, NCJW, Greater Dallas Section

This summer, we celebrated the 51st anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, while remembering that June marked the 3rd anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which effectively dismantled much of this landmark bill. Without the protections of the Voting Rights Act in Texas and other states, we have seen legislation passed that discriminates against voters of color and low income voters. 


Until recently, Texas had one of the strictest voter ID bills in the country. For example, you could use a gun license as proof of identity to vote, but not a University of Texas student ID. Thankfully, this past July, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Texas voter ID law as discriminatory. This means that when Texans head to the polls in November, the law will no longer be in effect, though we will still need to show a voter registration card. Unfortunately, there are still 14 other states that will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time since the last presidential election.


In Texas we have been working with other faith based organizations and the League of Women Voters to get as many citizens as possible registered to vote. On August 30th we will deputize over eighty volunteers to run voter registration drives in Dallas County. Then from September 11th to September 25th, NCJW is sponsoring five voter registration drives. Our volunteers will also work with coalition partners on their drives through the last possible day people can register to vote.

Restrictive laws, including voter ID requirements, have no place in a democracy where every citizen is supposed to enjoy equal access to the ballot. NCJW members in Texas choose to fight back against these laws by helping people register to vote so their voices can be heard!

Throwback to When Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt Made History

Last month, the United States Supreme Court overturned two key provisions of a draconian Texas anti-abortion law in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Texas’ laws, often called TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) threatened access to safe, legal care, with a disproportionately harmful impact on women of color, young women, and women struggling to make ends meet. Since June, the Whole Woman’s Health ruling has already had an impact, as courts around the country have blocked several states’ TRAP laws, declaring them unconstitutional. NCJW was at the US Supreme Court when the Whole Woman’s Health ruling came down, and Jody Rabhan, NCJW Director of Washington Operations, spoke at the rally. Watch the video of her speech here or read her remarks below. 

Good morning! My name is Jody Rabhan and I am the Director of Washington Operations at the National Council of Jewish Women. I am a Jewish woman, and a mom, and — like the thousands of NCJW members and supporters nationwide — I believe in protecting abortion access!

Let me hear you if you are a person of faith who also supports abortion access! There are so many religious folks like me — whether clergy or lay leaders or “everyday” people of faith — who believe in supporting access to abortion. And we believe in this access because of our faith —not in spite of it.

We believe in the moral obligation to support women’s health and safety. We know that means ensuring her access to care — not allowing sham laws that close clinics. We believe in affirming the equal worth and dignity of all people — which is why we know we must stop sham laws that deepen disparities in access to care. We believe in health equity and justice — and in stopping sham laws that fall hardest on people struggling to make ends meet, women of color, immigrant women, and young people. We believe in respect for diverse views about the very personal issue of abortion. And in fact, it is for that very reason that people of faith believe in supporting every woman’s ability — her basic constitutional right — to make her own moral decisions about abortion. And, we believe and cherish a bedrock principle of our democracy — religious liberty. Part of what religious liberty means is the right to make personal decisions guided by our own faith and values.

Whether or not you’re a person of faith, let me hear you if you believe that we ALL must be allowed to make our own faith-informed decisions about our bodies, our health, our families, and our futures! This basic right must not be contingent on where we live, our race, income, immigration status, or any other factor.

My friends, millions of people of faith like me stand up for these basic rights every day. We are speaking out to ensure every person has access to safe, legal abortion, whether she lives in Texas, or Washington, DC, or any other community! And no matter what happens in this case, people of faith will not stop speaking out for abortion access. We will not stop standing up for every person’s access to care, until everyone can make reproductive health decisions without fear, shame or other barriers to access; and until our laws live up to our values of respect, dignity, compassion, and justice for all!

Lobby Day Success!

By Julia Alford, NCJW Legislative Intern

As a young Jewish woman, I have always been taught the importance of taking a stance against injustice and speaking up for those who could not. Those values guided me towards public policy and my internship at NCJW this summer. My fellow interns and I were tasked with putting this value into practice by creating our own lobby day to visit our Congressional lawmakers on an issue we cared about. After the tragic mass shooting in Orlando, we decided to put our efforts towards gun violence prevention.

As we began to research this broad issue, it became clear that gun safety was also critical to domestic violence prevention. We learned that there were gaps in current federal gun laws that place women at particular at risk of danger; federal loopholes currently allow former and current dating partners convicted of domestic violence and stalking to still legally buy and own guns. Horribly, most women who are abused by their intimate partner are between 18 to 24 years old. As a 20 year-old woman college student, this really hit home for me. We decided to speak out for Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA)’s Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act (HR 2216), urging our members of Congress to cosponsor the bill.

Our second visit was with my representative, Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY). Congressman Tonko has always been a strong supporter of gun violence prevention. Most recently, he participated in the House sit-in, where lawmakers held the floor of the US House of Representatives to urge federal action on gun safety. But he still had not signed on to HR 2216. Coming into this meeting, I knew I wanted to stress the importance of protecting domestic violence survivors and how that relates to me and so many other young women. The Congressman represents a large number of colleges and universities in his district including my own school, the University at Albany, among many others. So I made my case, being sure to talk about the large number of college-age women and men in our district who are at risk of domestic violence.

I was surprised that the legislative correspondent really heard what I had to say. Instead of a scripted meeting, it flowed as a conversation and we left the meeting in agreement. Later that day, we learned that Congressman Tonko signed on to the bill as a cosponsor! This outcome showed me that, while lobbying visits are never predictable, with the right tools, you can have a successful visit. Looking back at our day on Capitol Hill, I realize how prepared I was! My fellow interns and I had created talking points on the issue, folders with information on the bill, and an agenda to guide our conversation in the right direction. Here are some tips I found useful during my lobby visit:

  • Assign roles for each step of the way as you prepare for a meeting! Whether it’s someone to create a meeting request email or put together a folder to leave behind, it’s important to have roles for accountability.
  • Have talking points that include three to four main points of a bill or issue.
  • Find your “ask!” An ask (or your end goal) during a lobby visit is usually for the member to be a cosponsor or vote in favor or against a bill.
  • Create an order for speaking roles during your meeting! Have someone open the conversation, another person talk about the issue, and then have someone to wrap up.
  • Share a personal and relatable story that helps convey your message.
  • Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t have the answer to a question. You can always follow up in an email.
  • Leave a folder with materials on the issue, information about your organization, and your contact information.
  • Thank the member or staff member during the meeting and in a thank you note.
  • Debrief. It’s good to talk about what just happened, what went well and how you can improve for your next visit.

With these tools, you too can have a successful lobby visit! Even if your “ask” doesn’t happen, you are still speaking up and taking a stance on something you believe in. That is what really counts.

 

The Problem with Eight

by Kate Friedman, NCJW Legislative Intern

“The judgement is confirmed by an equally divided court” Chief Justice John Roberts intoned as gasps and whispers filled the air around me. The eight justices left the Bench rather quickly as the audience, made up of well-dressed lawyers, excited law students, and summer tourists, was led out of the courtroom. As I left and walked down the majestic US Supreme Court steps, I saw devastated parents and children protesting this non-decision that harms so many families.

On June 23, 2016, the Supreme Court split 4-4 in United States v. Texas, the case against the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs that would have helped protect eligible immigrant children and parents from deportation. Due to the court’s tie in this case, the lower judgement was upheld, maintaining the Fifth Circuit Court’s injunction against DACA/DAPA and putting the lives of an estimated 4.3 million people in flux. Such 4-4 ties, without a full bench of nine justices, leave no nationally binding precedent, fail to answer important questions of standing, create a patchwork of laws across the country and, in order to avoid ties on controversial topics, prompt the court to review fewer major cases — delaying justice for millions.

This 4-4 tie was the latest in a saga that began with the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. Scarcely an hour after his death was announced, Senate leadership declared that they would not hold a hearing or vote on any replacement justice until after a new president was elected. A month later, when President Obama nominated DC Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland — a highly respected and eminently qualified jurist— Senate leadership doubled down on their refusal. As of this posting, Judge Garland has been waiting more than 133 days for a confirmation hearing and a vote, the longest period a Supreme Court nominee has waited from nomination to confirmation.

Faith communities are an important voice in this fight. A just society necessitates a fully functioning judiciary, which requires nine justices to interpret laws. The continued Senate obstruction has delayed justice for millions of people on issues of healthcare, religious liberty, and immigration. Our Jewish faith teaches us tzedek tzedek tirdof — to pursue justice. We have an obligation to speak out for a judicial system capable of carrying out its duties, a most basic goal the Supreme Court is only able to meet when it has a full complement of justices.

NCJW co-coordinated an Interfaith Supreme Court Week of Action July 11-15, with the Hindu American Foundation, National Council of Churches, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Anti-Defamation League, and the African American Ministers Leadership Council. During this Week of Action, faith communities across the country spoke out on social media and called in to Senate offices urging a hearing and a vote on the nominee. More than 40 local, state, and national organizations also signed on to a Moral Message, an interfaith statement affirming our shared belief that the Senate’s continued delay undermines our nation’s commitment to the pursuit of justice and democracy, which was delivered to Senate Leadership offices.

I had the opportunity to sit in on one such meeting with Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley’s chief counsel for nominations. Sen. Grassley has led the effort to obstruct the judicial nominations process. Though our meeting probably didn’t sway the senator’s staffer, it’s critical that people of faith continue to urge the Senate to do their job. The Senate will return from summer recess in September, leaving only a few weeks for lawmakers to do the right thing before the next Supreme Court term opens in October. Between now and then, it’s up to us to continue to take action on behalf of the millions of women, families, and children seeking justice.

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