Wise Temple congregants focus on Civic Engagement and Social Justice

Isaac M. Wise Temple provides an opportunity for congregants of all ages to live out their Jewish values by working together to influence systemic change through Civic Engagement@Wise (CE@Wise). The group focuses on societal concerns such as increasing voter participation, reducing gun violence, criminal justice reform, and securing reproductive rights for women. Through its affiliation with the Religious Action Center (RAC), Isaac M. Wise Temple is a “Brit Olam” congregation and has signed a covenant to confront injustice at its root.

As part of CE@Wise, congregants register voters, participate in marches, lobby legislators, plan educational programs on social problems, and collect signatures to support pending legislation. Our partners include the JCRC, ACLU, Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ), the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center and RAC Ohio that serves Reform congregations throughout Ohio. “Working with our partners strengthens our voice and contributes to our knowledge and influence on social justice concerns,” says Jenna Shaifer, co-chair of CE@Wise.

On June 30, CE@Wise sponsored a webinar attended by 70 Wise Temple members that featured “Understanding Racism at Home: A Conversation with Lead Pastor Paul Booth Jr. of Legacy Pointe Church and Rabbi Lewis Kamrass.” During the webinar, the speakers emphasized that voting is an important tool to address systemic racism and social injustice, but more needs to be done to create a more equitable future in American society.

In the upcoming days, CE@Wise is co-sponsoring with RAC-Ohio a state-wide webinar by Eric Ward, a long-time and nationally noted civil rights strategist. Ward’s topic for that webinar is “Racism, Antisemitism, and the Vote.” The event will be offered to Reform congregations across Ohio on Monday, July 27, at 7 pm and can be accessed through Wise Temple via zoom by registration in advance.

Up through the general election, CE@Wise will focus its efforts on mobilizing voters within and outside the congregation, advocating for voter access, and engaging teens and college students in the voting process.

CE@Wise has launched the campaign “Every Congregant Votes” within the membership of Wise Temple to ensure voting is accessible to all congregants, and that all congregants of voting age are accurately registered and to help them register if they are not. CE@Wise is also working to form partnerships with local organizations and other faith-based groups to encourage voting and to provide materials to other groups and constituencies in the larger community about access to voting that can be distributed within these settings.

To achieve these goals, CE@Wise has developed a variety of activities congregants can participate in over the summer: 1) postcard writing at home (possibly on Zoom) or in small groups where safety practices are followed; 2) texting and phoning congregants; 3) delivering voter registration forms to senior centers and other gathering places; 4) reaching out to groups and individuals who would benefit from clear information about how to register to vote; and 5) broadening voting opportunities by contacting Ohio State Representatives to oppose HB680 (which decreases voter opportunities); and to support SB191 (which expands abilities for Ohioans to vote). CE@Wise will provide volunteers with necessary supplies such as postcards, labels, contact lists, and sample scripts as needed.

Following the November election, CE@Wise will continue to address key priorities: preventing gun violence, criminal justice reform, and securing reproductive rights for women. As Amy Katz, Jenna Shaifer’s co-chair, states, “We know that working for social justice is challenging, but our Jewish values and texts are there to guide us, inspire us, and sustain our commitment.”

  • Published in The American Israelite 7/23/2020