Central Conference of American Rabbis Welcomes the New Year

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Central Conference of American Rabbis wishes peace and blessings in 2018 to our members, the communities we serve, and to all our neighbors and friends, in the United States and Canada, Israel, and around the world. So, too, we extend good wishes to the leaders of all the nations in which we serve.

2017 was a year of devastating storms and tragic fires. Reform rabbis were there for our communities, leading and comforting at times of great need. Our Conference was privileged to be present for our members, as rabbis to rabbis, in adversity as in times of celebration.

Racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism burned in Charlottesville and across our land in 2017. Our Conference boldly called for the appropriate response that was not forthcoming from President Trump. We quickly provided resources to Reform rabbis, who nimbly reoriented their words and deeds as the High Holy Days approached in the wake of national crisis.

America and our Jewish world were flooded with newfound recognition of a tragic reality that many of our colleagues and constituents already knew too well: sexual harassment and violence are American epidemics. As Reform rabbis responded in each community, our Conference was already in the process of examining the experience of women in the rabbinate. We have appointed a task force to study the issues and recommend corrective action.

Our Conference blazes with passion for the Land and People of Israel. As we celebrated the 100th Israeli Reform rabbi ordained at Hebrew Union College-Institute of Religion, we admired the legion achievements of our Israeli colleagues. They are changing the religious landscape of the Jewish State every day with a prophetic message of social justice and peace and an openness to all. We look forward to the day when every Jew in Israel, including every rabbi, enjoys full religious equality – under the chuppah, at the graveside, at the Kotel, and throughout the State.

The light of Reform Jewish thought shone ever brighter from our CCAR Press in 2017, with the publication of twelve new books that range from prayer to social justice, meditation to religious practice, social justice to theology. We are grateful that our Press’s excellence was recognized this year, with a National Book Award bestowed upon The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate during the same year that we celebrated the tenth anniversary of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary.

2017 was a year of transition for our Conference’s Office of Rabbinic Placement, as we marked the myriad accomplishments of Rabbi Alan Henkin, now our Placement Director Emeritus; and welcomed his successor, Rabbi Cindy Enger, and her deep spiritual vision for the rabbinical placement process.

Our Conference begins 2018 by elevating our service to every Reform rabbi. Rabbi Betsy Torop, a long-time member of our Conference staff part-time, today joins our full-time rabbinic senior staff as Director of Rabbinic Engagement and Growth.

Too often in 2017, American justice was flooded and peace was set ablaze. Time and again, our Conference lifted the collective rabbinic voice to call for righteousness, often through the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a joint endeavor of our Conference and the Union for Reform Judaism.

At the dawn of this secular new year, Reform rabbis urgently call upon the United States Congress to act boldly on behalf of justice for all who live within the borders of this great nation.

Heirs to a tradition that commands us to care for the stranger in our midst, Reform rabbis are deeply concerned about beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which President Trump has slated for termination in March if Congress does not act. We renew our repeated calls for comprehensive immigration reform, balancing the enforcement of our nation’s laws with compassion and human dignity. Most urgently, we seek adoption of the proposed Dream Act, which would make DACA the law of the land and provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, as DACA recipients are known. These young people would lack legal status in this country if DACA were to expire, even though the United States is the only home they know.

As rabbis who uphold religious teaching requiring that every community assure adequate health care for all, we are alarmed by threats to vulnerable Americans’ ability to afford medical care. In 2017, Congress eliminated the individual health insurance mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and President Trump refused to renew cost-sharing payments necessary to assure the affordability of health insurance under ACA. We call upon Congress to appropriate the funds necessary to stabilize the health insurance market and make access to health care affordable for all Americans.

As 2017 came to a close, Congress failed to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Families face an uncertain future, with some states notifying parents that CHIP funds could evaporate as early as this month. Our faith, like many others, emphasizes caring for our young among our most urgent responsibilities. Reform rabbis call upon Congress to renew and fully fund CHIP as its first order of business in 2018.

At this dawn of the new year, Reform rabbis pray for an end to the flames and the floods, a year of comfort and peace, with liberty and justice for all.

Rabbi David E. Stern                                                      Rabbi Steven A. Fox
President                                                                        Chief Executive

Central Conference of American Rabbis