Time seems particularly precious this time of year. With the holidays approaching–so close that they are nearly on top of us–it can be hard to find the time to put effort into other matters. And yet, sometimes, we must.
Which is why I’ve given a good portion of my time this past week towards supporting the Non-Discrimination Ordinance, wearing suits and wearing red, spending a lot of time sweating in the hot sun. Sometimes, there are things towards which we must give our time and our voices–because to create justice and righteousness in the world is an act as holy as standing before the congregation on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
And so, I share the remarks that I gave today on the steps of city hall, standing side by side with fellow clergy–standing surrounded by 60 leaders from a variety of faith traditions–all of us raising our religious voices in support of the ordinance:
I’m Rabbi Elisa Koppel, from Temple Beth-El. I speak today as a citizen, as a woman, as a Jew, and especially as a Rabbi.
I speak as a person of faith, in favor of the Non-Discrimination Ordinance.
In the Torah, the most sacred text of Judaism, Exodus 22:20, we read, “You shall not wrong nor oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” This idea is at our core.
At the very beginning of our history, we were slaves in Egypt, we were the stranger. And so many times throughout our history, we have been the stranger.
Even in America, it was not so long ago that Jews were denied housing, denied service, denied jobs, denied basic civil rights.
We have been the stranger, and now we support the stranger, we fight for the stranger, we work to end discrimination against the stranger—whoever that stranger may be.
This was the message of Rabbi Joachim Prinz, when he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago last week, delivering a speech that was immediately followed by Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. In his remarks, he said:
…Our fathers taught us thousands of years ago that when God created man, he created him as everybody’s neighbor. Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept. It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man’s dignity and integrity.
Rabbi Prinz, for the rest of his life, referred to the march on Washington as the “most memorable religious experience of my life.”
It is in this spirit that I stand before you. Just as the Jewish people fought for civil rights in the past, we continue that fight today.
With responsibility for our neighbor. Our neighbor who is also created b’tzelem elohim, in the Image of God. Our neighbor who, because of their Divine essence, deserves to be treated with respect, deserves the same rights as all others, also created in that same image.
It is because of my religious conviction, because of my values, that I stand here today.
It is by my religion, that I am called, I am compelled, I am obligated, I am commanded, to support the rights of all human beings and to support the fight of those who are oppressed.
To support the fight against discrimination.
To work for righteousness in our city, our country and in our world.
To pursue legislation that is based not on prejudice, but on justice.
I hope, I pray, that the city council votes in favor of this important ordinance.
And on that day, the world shall be one and God’s name shall be one. Ken Y’hi Ratzon. May this be God’s will–may this be our will.
I fully INTENDED to write for #Blogelul 27, Intend, but life got in the way. 26, Hope, was a microblog that you can find on my twitter feed.