Temple Beth El Fights for Reproductive Justice

Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court this summer, Temple Beth El’s Board of Trustees approved a formal resolution in support of reproductive rights and reproductive justice. This resolution affirms Temple Beth El’s unwavering support for the protection, preservation, and restoration of reproductive rights, informed by our Jewish values of pikuach nefesh, the sacred obligation to preserve life and to protect the physical health and well-being of pregnant people. Jewish tradition is clear that the life of the mother must always take precedence over that of the unborn child. The overturning of Roe v. Wade, therefore, also threatens our ability as American Jews to follow the tenets of our faith.   

This resolution was an important step for our congregation to declare unequivocally that as Jews we believe in personal autonomy and a woman’s right to make informed decisions about her own body and life. However, it was just that – a step. We know that words can be an empty gesture unless accompanied by action. In Pirkei Avot, our rabbis debate which is greater, study or action. Ultimately, they decide that study is greater because it leads to action. And our congregants were ready to act. In August, we held a special Torah study to engage more deeply with our Jewish texts about abortion and reproductive rights. A few days later, about 70 congregants gathered to scaffold a reproductive rights campaign. Out of that meeting, we created three working groups with different focuses: education, advocacy and direct service. 

Our advocacy working group organized a postcard writing campaign, in which about 30 congregants, from senior citizens to teenagers, gathered to compose postcards to local elected officials expressing our support for the restoration, preservation and expansion of abortion access in North Carolina. We mailed over 150 postcards, with many participants receiving responses from elected officials. I am deeply proud of our community for taking this action, and it was an important reminder that reproductive rights are an issue of health care, an issue relevant to each of us, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, or marital status.  

Our education working group will be hosting a screening and discussion on January 29th of The Janes, an HBO documentary about an underground network of women in the South Side of Chicago assisting women seeking safe, affordable, and illegal abortions in the 1970’s.  We welcome anyone who is interested in learning more about this chapter of American history. You can register for this program on our website. 

Members of our direct service working group have been participating in training sessions facilitated by the Reproductive Rights Coalition to be escorts for any patient arriving at Planned Parenthood, regardless of the reason for their visit, to protect them from harassment from protestors.   

Temple Beth El is also proud to be home to “Girls Just Want to Have Choices,” a new social justice and action TriBE (small group) dedicated to advocating for reproductive rights. We will be sure to share opportunities for the broader community to engage in their work as they arise. 

If you are interested in getting involved in our campaign, please reach out to Nicole Sidman, Associate Director of Social Justice and Outreach. As with any social justice campaign, we know that the work is hard, that it will take time and patience, but that it is our obligation as Jews to fight for bodily autonomy for every human being. 

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