A History of RJV
Reform Jewish Voice of New York State was founded in 2002 after the Capital District Consultation on Conscience at Congregation Beth Emeth in Albany. Within the next year, RJV received official support from the Union for Reform Judaism.
Our first Steering Committee was formed in February, 2003 and our first advocacy how-to, Advocating for Social Justice in New York State-A Model of Advocacy for Reform Jewish Positions with NYS Policy Makers, was created. The inaugural New York Consultation on Conscience was held in March of 2004 with the Women on Reform Judaism at Temple Shaaray Tefila in Westchester. One hundred and fifty people attended from congregations as far away from one another as Montauk, Albany and Buffalo. Many topics that we currently work on were discussed, including reproductive rights, the death penalty, increasing the minimum wage and health care. By November of 2004, RJV had received letters of support from all five URJ Regional Boards, doubled our activist network and delved into circulating newsletters, action alerts and email updates.
Our early work included outreach visits to synagogues across the state to discuss RJV and inform congregants about the crucial issues facing New Yorkers. Our policy statements, educational materials and talking points have helped congregants become experts on state issues and feel prepared to meet with their state legislators.
Over the past decade, RJV has worked as part of many coalitions to effect change in New York State. We have worked on the issues of welfare and hunger with the Faith and Hunger Network and Interfaith Impact of New York State, reproductive rights with Family Planning Advocates, Concerned Clergy for Choice, Alliance for Women’s Health and Planned Parenthood of NYS, and LGBT equality with the Empire State Pride Agenda and Pride in the Pulpit. Our coalition partnerships further our work and engage activists across the state.
From the New York State Consultation on Conscience to Interfaith Advocacy Day in Albany, RJV has played a role in creating meaningful and educational events for Reform Jews in New York to directly engage in social justice. Our “And Justice for All-A reform Jewish Voice Shabbat” evolved into an entire month dedicated to social justice and effecting change in public policy. Our focus on economic justice has ranged from programs lifting people out of poverty, affordable housing and raising the state minimum wage.
In January of 2010, RJV launched a two-year Marriage Equality Campaign; the ultimate passage of the Marriage Equality Act on June 24, 2011 was highly gratifying and exciting.
Since then, RJV continues to provide direct action and educational opportunities for Reform Jewish New Yorkers. Check out our Advocacy page to learn about how you can get involved in making a difference in Albany, your community and your congregation.