JSPAN–Positioned as the Organization of the Moment

JSPAN President Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom

Writing in the Forward, J. J. Goldberg challenges Jewish organizations to develop an agenda that reflects the concerns of the community today.  

JSPAN fits the description to a T.

Goldberg writes that American Jews “long ago stopped expecting the organized community’s agenda to reflect their interests or values.”  Most Jews today, he writes, simply tune out the organizations.

That is why he argues that a new agenda is needed for American Jewish organizations.

What is that agenda?  He notes that the main issues that unite members of the non-Orthodox community in America are social issues. And liberal, progressive ones, at that.  He argues that nothing galvanizes the community so much as “gender and reproductive rights, immigration and church-state separation.”  Economic justice and workers’ rights are also among the issues high on the agenda of America’s Jews.

This is precisely JSPAN’s mission.  We do not deal with Israel.  We are not primarily an organization that deals with Jewish self-interest.  We appeal to the transformative power of the Jewish tradition to improve society, and create harmony and respect among all people. 

We stand for human rights and political rights.  We embrace the rights of those who are discriminated against by virtue of some extraneous characteristic like race, ethnicity or national origin.  We embrace the rights of all to the benefits of a just, free society.

We believe that pious platitudes are not enough.  We cannot be satisfied with the bromide that we are a society of “equal opportunity” when that principle is used to diminish the just claims of those who know they are systematically excluded from the nation’s bounty, and do not have access to basic rights.  We want to advance the cause of those who have no voice, and protect the rights that should be available to all for a life of dignity, honor and respect.

As I listen to the noise surrounding the presidential election campaign, I believe that the commitment of our nation to these principles of human values is endangered.  Anger and scapegoating have now become legitimate political expression.  It has become legitimate for potential leaders to demean others in ways once thought unthinkable, or at least unspeakable.

As president of JSPAN, I believe our organization addresses the most critical agenda of our time.  It is a Jewish agenda.  It is an American agenda.  It is a human agenda.