CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - Mar 31, 2014) - At the opening ceremony of the 125th annual Convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) yesterday evening, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) highlighted what she called the pervasive "meanness" in Washington and faulty morality used by members of Congress to support cuts to programs like food stamps and unemployment benefits.
The CCAR is the world's largest organization of Jewish clergy, with over 2,000 member rabbis worldwide.
"The hardest thing to bear is the meanness, the demonization, the lack of respect, and the actual contempt for poor people, and for people who are struggling in any way," said Congresswoman Schakowsky, who represents parts of Chicago and the rest of Illinois' 9th congressional district. "Some lawmakers believe that social programs lull people into comfort and complacency, and that there is a moral judgment attached to financial success." She pointed out the "spiritual bankruptcy" of using Scripture to rationalize efforts to curtail the social safety net -- and she suggested that religions' overarching notion of an individual's sacred obligation to others should help guide policy.
Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, the first female Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA), spoke about myths and questionable perceptions surrounding the religious underpinnings of American culture. She called out the problematic and sometimes loudly voiced view that a core part of American identity is based on the assumption of a Protestant sense of relationship with God. She posited that grace and the bond to be in the service of others represent the best of American religious culture.
"Invite an Orthodox rabbi to your Shabbat dinner and get to know each other," said Rabbi Asher Lopatin, an Orthodox rabbi who is the President of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School in New York City. A scholar of Islamic Studies, Rabbi Lopatin underscored the success of his and other rabbis' efforts to move Orthodox Judaism toward greater openness to the larger world. This commitment to greater connectedness, he said, is part of the religious Jew's responsibility to engage in the fight against injustice.
The CCAR Convention is taking place in Chicago until Wednesday, April 2. On Tuesday, April 1, several dozen Reform rabbis will shave their heads in support of pediatric cancer research. Other events include speeches by Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO of Mondelēz International, and Morton Schapiro, President of Northwestern University.
The opening event featuring Cong. Schakowsky, Bishop Eaton and Rabbi Lopatin was the annual Jacob Rader Marcus Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.
For more information, please contact Eric Mosher of Sommerfield Communications at (212) 255-8386 or Eric@sommerfield.com.
The Central Conference of American Rabbis, founded in 1889, is the oldest and largest rabbinic organization in North America. As the professional organization for Reform Rabbis of North America, the CCAR projects a powerful voice in the religious life of the American and international Jewish communities. Since its establishment, the CCAR has a rich history of giving professional and personal support to Reform rabbis, providing them with opportunities for study, professional development and spiritual growth beginning while they are still in seminary, through mid-careers, and into retirement. The CCAR is uniquely positioned to meet the ongoing needs of its nearly 2,000 member rabbis (virtually the entire Reform rabbinate) and the entire Reform Jewish community. For more information please visit the CCAR's website at http://ccarnet.org/.