Trump’s policies focus of US Reform movement conference
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Trump’s policies focus of US Reform movement conference

800 activists discuss ‘new vulnerability’ of immigrants, refugees; debate anti-Semitism and Islamophobia

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner. (Courtesy RAC)
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner. (Courtesy RAC)

WASHINGTON — A US Reform movement leader described a “new sense of vulnerability” in the United States at the movement’s biennial Consultation on Conscience.

“We share a new sense of vulnerability,” Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the director of Reform’s Religious Action Center, said Sunday in opening remarks.

“We hear the demonization of immigrants, we the descendants of immigrants, we see refugees turned away at our borders, we witness our fellow citizens unjustly denied the right to vote, we are pained by transgendered individuals who are unable to live with authenticity, we fear the rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, we experience the assault on women’s reproductive autonomy and rights, we worry about people of color who continue to bear the weight of a crushing mass incarceration and broken criminal justice system,” he said.

Pesner did not name US President Donald Trump, but Trump’s election in November has galvanized liberal Jewish activism, particularly as it relates to his crackdown on illegal immigration, his rollback of transgender protections and of criminal justice reforms and the rise of bigotry after a bitter and divisive campaign.

US President Donald Trump speaks at the US Treasury Department in Washington, DC, April 21, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)
US President Donald Trump speaks at the US Treasury Department in Washington, DC, April 21, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

There were workshops at the three-day conference on the issues Pesner named as well as on climate change. The conference, which organizers said brought 800 activists and movement leaders to a Washington-area hotel, culminates on Tuesday with a lobbying day on Capitol Hill.

Trump’s election was never far from the surface. Rabbi Larry Bach of Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, North Carolina, described the new sense of risk his family felt for his transgender son in the wake of the election. Former President Barack Obama’s administration opposed laws in the state banning special accommodations for transgender school students.

“My son no longer has a champion at Justice or in the White House, but he does have a champion in the Reform movement,” he said at the conference on Sunday.

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