Dear Temple Beth El Family,
On Tuesday, July 5th, Temple Beth El’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a formal resolution, “Support for Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Justice.” The resolution, which is a direct response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, affirms Temple Beth El’s unwavering support for the protection, preservation, and restoration of reproductive rights in accordance with Jewish tradition. We understand and appreciate that there are members of our community who hold a variety of perspectives, so we want to explain why the Board has made this decision.
The Board’s adoption of this resolution was informed by thousands of years of Jewish texts and values that emphasize pikuach nefesh, our sacred obligation to preserve life and protect the physical health and well-being of the mother. Reform Judaism also emphasizes personal autonomy and respects a woman’s ability to make informed decisions about her own life, her own body, and what will be best for her health and well-being.
Over the years, the Temple’s clergy have counseled Jewish women seeking religious and spiritual guidance about the termination of pregnancies for a variety of reasons, including pregnancies that pose a threat to the mother’s health due to ectopic pregnancies, terrible genetic diseases, underlying health conditions of the fetus, other challenging circumstances, the deterioration of the mother’s mental health, and pregnancies resulting from rape. In each instance the choices were difficult and personal, as are many medical decisions.
We believe that the Supreme Court’s decision will have unthinkable consequences that will adversely affect the health and wellbeing of women in our own community, as well as in our city, state, and nation. Because the Supreme Court has returned this issue to the states, we expect that reproductive rights issues will take center stage regionally. Temple Beth El will never support a partisan agenda or particular politicians. However, we believe that certain issues rise to the level of religious and moral imperatives. Reproductive rights is one of those issues. A prohibition or restricted access to abortion care may result in abortions being performed in unsafe conditions, putting the lives of women at risk. Abortion bans across the region will also likely lead to a reduction in access to healthcare for women in our own state, increasing numbers of women dying from illegal abortions, or suffering other tragic consequences short of death for both the mother and the fetus.
A society with broad access to health care is a more just society. Reproductive health care, including abortion, is health care. These are issues that are core to our faith: the preservation of life, religious freedom, personal autonomy, and health.
The Board authorized the Social Justice and Action Committee, in collaboration with Temple Beth El’s clergy, to proceed with advocacy, education and programming initiatives in this area, in accordance with Temple Beth El’s mission and statements of impact and informed by our Reproductive Rights Advocacy Proposal. We are proud that we have made this unequivocal statement, and this is a first step to opportunities for our congregation to engage on an issue affecting the lives of so many.
Ways to Get Involved
- Learn: Please join Rabbi Erdheim on Saturday, August 13 at 9:00am for a special Shabbat morning Torah Study examining Jewish perspectives on abortion and reproductive rights.
- Gather to Act: Our social justice committee will hold a gathering of interested individuals to discuss the different avenues for advocacy and action on Tuesday, August 16 at 7:00pm. If you are unable to attend but still want to be involved, please contact Nicole Sidman to learn more
- Teen Health: Our clergy are working to restart “Just Say Know” and our STAR Sexuality Education program, which was on hiatus during COVID. If you are interested in learning more or volunteering to work with the clergy, please reach out to Tracey Lederer in the clergy office.
The task ahead will require hard work, patience, and dedication. In Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Tarfon famously states, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you permitted to desist from it.” May we hold these words in our hearts and minds as we embark on this sacred and important work together.
Temple Beth El Board of Directors
Temple Beth El Clergy