On May 4, along with Rabbi Sarah Abrams and other congregants from Westchester Reform Temple, I enthusiastically participated in my first experience advocating for human rights and social issues important to Reform Jews. Meeting New York State district representatives, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Senator George Latimer, in their offices, was a valuable sit-down-opportunity to share a Reform Jewish perspective on specific legislative issues and to listen to our elected representatives. And they did listen. They spoke openly, informatively and instructively on the issues of the Reproductive Rights Service Act, Gender Expression Non-discrimination and the NYS DREAM Act. I was quite impressed by their in-depth knowledge of the benefits of each bill and the challenges facing successful passage of the legislation. They told us how important hearing from our perspective was.
For me, the in-person conversation with Senator Latimer was particularly exciting. I presented support for NYS Dream Act explaining our faith’s fundamental commitment to social justice and care of vulnerable populations; the Senator’s understanding of our faith and agreement was very clear in his reply, “Yes, Tikkun Olam.” He told us he should be a co-sponsor of the bill, picked up his telephone to notify the appropriate committee chair, signed the sponsorship form in our presence, and asked his assistant to process it immediately. What an incredible satisfying moment for all!
Our conversation continued allowing me to share my other very personal reason for championing the NY DREAM Act: a young graduate student and my colleague, well known in the DREAM Act youth movement ‘Undocumented and Unafraid,’ tragically died in a car accident. I left Cinthya’s bio with Senator Latimer to put a human face on the bill. I felt my meeting with Senator Latimer and his co-sponsorship will advance her work—our work.
We left Albany feeling our Reform Jewish concerns were heard. We were encouraged by our representatives’ commitment to protect and sustain individual human rights of all New Yorkers. Imagine the impact hundreds/ thousands of Reform Jews can make, in Washington and their state capitols, on the issues that reflect our ethical principles and tradition.
Karen L. Levin, Westchester Reform Temple