Notes from Religious Justice Committee on May 10

Notes from May 10, 2017 Meeting of the Religious Justice Committee

Attendance: Barbara Birkart, Marcia Bloomberg, Mary Forbes, Erica Sekular

Review of Pledge to Stop Hate
This was a document adapted from Hate Hurts: How Children Learn and Unlearn Prejudice produced by the ADL. It was shared at a recent meeting of the National Council of Jewish Women’s program on the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom held on May 4. Erica will check with a contact about the language of the pledge and the possibility of our adapting it to use in SOMa.

The idea is to possibly ask South Orange and Maplewood to pass a resolution based on the Pledge to Stop Hate. (Note: research has now indicated that the recently passed Sanctuary City resolutions in So Orange and Maplewood are so close to the language we would ask them to pass that it is unlikely the towns would adopt our resolution. Therefore, we have other ideas for spreading the Pledge).

We would like to have local folks sign the pledge and then hang banners in each town, post on the SOMa Action website and generally use for photo ops as well as give the pledge to each local realtor.

Having people sign the pledge at various local events would include collecting their emails to be used as a cohort of people willing to stand up against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hate.

Mary suggested, post meeting, that we aim for June 4 to have people sign the pledge at an upcoming meeting on Race and Privilege.

Interfaith Programming Sponsored by Area Churches
Barbara met with the pastor at St. George’s to ask how local clergy are addressing white privilege and related issues. We feel that white people need to speak with each other about prejudice and white privilege. There was discussion about how each of us is unique and has many identities, but all of us at the meeting appear to be white to People of Color. One idea discussed was hosting a series of potluck dinners at area religious institutions that focus on a particular culture that would allow for interaction among the participants and would highlight a culture with music, dance, clothing and food.

There have been interfaith programs hosted by Congregation Beth El and Oheb Shalom. Marcia will contact Rabbi Jesse Olitzky at Beth El to see about partnering in programming. Barbara will speak with Valley Arts about programming as well. Because our committee is small it is necessary to have significant partners for interfaith programming.

We discussed having a book discussion based on a book (to be named) about religion, white privilege and related issues. Mary will look into a possible book. Barbara will speak with Bridget who may know of a book dealing with race, faith and privilege.
Programming Idea
The Johnson “Amendment” prohibits clergy from involvement in politics (using the pulpit to hold the congregation to a particular point of view on political issues) and also prohibits religious congregations from endorsing and making donations to political parties or candidates. Trump has signed an executive order indicating he will not enforce this rule, thus allowing political statements and donations by churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.

The committee discussed hosting a program on this topic having a constitutional scholar and/or others discuss the repercussions of this executive order. Marcia will contact Michael Paris for his suggestions for speakers. Mary suggested Fred Carabello from Seton Hall. Proposed venues are the Woodland, Morrow Memorial, Temple Beth Am Shalom and Prospect Church.