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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) is the driving force behind the Reform Movement’s social justice efforts and works tirelessly with our communities to “create a world overflowing with justice, compassion, and peace.” Learn more about the RAC and the meaningful work they do on their website at https://rac.org.

Rockdale Temple’s efforts to seek justice within the state of Ohio are in collaboration with the RAC’s state-based initiative, RAC Ohio, which is currently focusing its efforts on non-partisan criminal justice reform. This issue matters for many reasons, but a significant piece to note is the roughly 50,000 incarcerated Ohioans (half of which are black citizens) in facilities intended to house just under 39,000 people. On June 30 of last year, Governor John Kasich signed the Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison program (TCAP) into law, marking a success for the many that fought for this victory, including thousands of Reform Jews across the state of Ohio. TCAP will keep 3,400 individuals out of prison each year and keep them in their communities while providing support and treatment, which is what our community members need, not a lifelong sentence for low-level, non-violent offenses. RAC Ohio is making strides in the right direction, but there is still much more work to be done on the path toward criminal justice reform.

Rockdale Temple is unique in that it is involved in the statewide criminal justice reform campaign and is going through a process of finding its own campaign to organize. Rockdale is part of a group of congregations across the United States learning with the RAC about how to organize campaigns and how to do so within our own congregations. We want to find a cause that we are both passionate about as a Rockdale community but that is also relevant within our greater community, and from there we hope to launch our own non-partisan campaign supported and fostered by RAC Ohio. In the meantime, we have been working toward the goals of RAC Ohio’s statewide criminal justice reform campaign.

Here at Rockdale, our congregants have been working diligently on collecting signatures to get the Safe and Healthy Communities Amendment onto the November 2018 ballot. This initiative would make the possession, obtainment, and use of drugs no more than a misdemeanor crime, rather than a felony, which is how these offenses have often been treated in the past. Once this initiative makes its way onto the ballot, RAC Ohio and the dedicated members of Rockdale Temple will shift their efforts toward registering community members to vote, encouraging voters to go out to the polls on voting day, and educating constituents so that they are knowledgeable about this initiative when they see it on the ballot in November.

As Reform Jews, we have deeply rooted values that connect us to the social justice issues around us and empower us to take action, and as a Rockdale community, we have always placed a great emphasis on supporting social justice movements and finding ways to get involved. The efforts of RAC Ohio and campaigns like these give us, the Reform Jewish community, the opportunity to “live out our values in a way that’s more concrete than just learning and talking about them,” says RAC Ohio Lead Organizer, Rabbi Lindsey Danziger. Our hope as a congregation is to continue these efforts in the fight for criminal justice reform and for the establishment of our very own non-partisan social justice campaign, to know that our work is never complete, and to engage with our community in the pursuit of a brighter and more just future for Ohio.

Sources: https://rac.org/about-rac; https://rac.org/reform-ohio; personal interview with Rabbi Lindsey Danziger

 

Fri, November 16 2018 8 Kislev 5779