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one conversation at a time

03/25/2021 03:58:26 PM


Five members of Temple Israel and I assembled in our Zoom room, preparing for our conversation with our New York State Assembly Member, Sandra Galef.  I was used to meeting with elected officials and their aides.  Before I entered rabbinical school, I worked in the Washington State Senate and then as a legislative liaison for a public college.  Since becoming a rabbi I kept up my advocacy. Every year I traveled with a group of teens to Washington D.C. so they could learn how to advocate for issues they care about.  I also went to Albany each year with adults from Temple Israel and met with officials there. 

Meetings like this were familiar to me, but not to all in our Zoom room. “I’m a little nervous,” said one participant.  “I know,” said another.  I also felt a little nervous, having never had a meeting with an elected official over Zoom. 

We assembled to advocate on behalf of a parole reform bill called “Less is More.”   The bill addresses the high number of people on parole who are incarcerated for technical violations of parole, like missing a curfew or a meeting with a parole officer because of work or child care obligations. This is a bill that disproportionally affects black people, so we saw it as an issue of racial justice.  That is why we felt impelled to speak up on behalf of this reform.  (For more information about this legislation, see my previous blog post.)

Sandra Galef appeared in our Zoom room and greeted us graciously.  She listened to our presentation and offered supportive comments.  At the end of our presentation, Mrs. Galef thanked us for bringing this legislation to her attention, and said that she would certainly support it.  This was one of the most positive and gratifying meetings I’ve ever had with an elected official. 

During the festival of Passover, we celebrate our freedom.  But our freedom is meant to be used for a greater purpose.  In our tradition, we are liberated from bondage to Pharaoh so that we are free to serve God:  to be “a light unto the nations,” to pursue justice and protect the most vulnerable people in our communities. 

Lest you think this is beyond your ability, think again.  As our meeting with Sandra Galef showed, it is quite possible to pursue justice in small ways, one conversation at a time.

Thu, June 30 2022 1 Tammuz 5782