All of the rabbis of Madison, Wisconsin’s liberal Jewish movements (Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative) signed on to the letter below.
Dear Rabbinic Colleagues and Friends,
Many of you have been watching what is going on in our beloved city of Madison, Wisconsin. As rabbis who live and work in Madison, we wanted to share with you some reflections on recent events.
This is an extraordinary time in Madison. We have never seen anything like it. The sheer number of people who have come to protest, testify, or attend vigils at the State Capitol is unbelievable. Through sunshine and freezing rain, we have been shocked at how long people have sustained this engagement. The overwhelming number of protesters has been respectful, peaceful, and well, downright friendly (this is the Midwest, after all!). The energy inside the Capitol rotunda is astounding. It has brought tears to our eyes to watch young people become so passionate about these issues, even sleeping there throughout the night. We have heard some grumbling about the school closures, but there could be no better civics lesson than watching strangers – young and old, workers and professors, from small towns and big cities, all holding hands all around the perimeter of the Capitol and chanting, “This is what democracy looks like.”
We have been very focused on the local level, but we understand that this is a national issue. The stakes are very high. They are so high because our very communities are at risk. Contrary to many news reports, this is not about greedy labor unions. If Governor Walker’s bill passes, it will destroy local economies throughout the state – and drastically reduce the quality of our public schools, universities, nursing homes, child care centers, and hospitals. Through its devastating changes to Medicaid it will jeopardize the health and well-being of the mentally ill, disabled, elderly, and poor. This will affect each of us personally and professionally, and it will spread to other states as well. Sadly, our children’s future is on the line, and Governor Walker has tried to prevent any public discussion or debate on these issues.
As rabbis we find this an affront to our values – the Jewish mandate to protect workers, as well as the poor and needy among us. It is an affront to our deep value for education, for supporting women’s rights, and for creating sustainable communities. And it is an affront to our belief that these issues should be debated openly and fairly under public scrutiny.
We humbly share the attached resources that we have compiled in the hopes that we can renew our commitment to social justice for all members of our society. What is happening in Wisconsin will likely spread to other states, and we hope that you will discuss these issues in your communities.
The organization that has been coordinating the interfaith religious response in Madison is the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin. Their members are a combination of grassroots activists, clergy, laity, congregations, community organizations, and labor unions. If you would like to support their work, please visit http://www.workerjustice.org. The issue of cuts to health care coverage for low income Wisconsin residents is also at stake. To read more about this or to support these efforts, please visit Save Badger Care, http://www.savebadgercare.org.
As Rabbi Hillel once said, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"
Rabbi Renee Bauer
Rabbi Joshua Ben-Gideon
Rabbi Rebecca Ben-Gideon
Rabbi Jonathan Biatch
Rabbi Kenneth Katz
Rabbi Bonnie Margulis
Rabbi Andrea Steinberger
Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman