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Rabbi Stiefel's Monthly Article

The Long Haul

by Rabbi Sharon Stiefel

As I write this and we approach the November elections, it is easy to get discouraged by the divisions and acrimony in our country. For times like this we need perspective.

Taking the long view is never easy. As Israelites we wandered through the desert; we were impatient and kvetchy. Thinking fondly of the melons and garlic we had in Egypt, we could not visualize settling and building our nation. But ultimately our persistence and the courage and leadership of some, kept us going as we, the children of Israel, grew into freedom.

We can imagine the early women activists in the United States feeling great impatience. After their rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848, change came slowly. By the mid-nineteenth century, women won the ability to control property but they didn’t get the right to vote until 1920. Generations worked for change they never got to see. Even now, nearly a hundred years after women’s suffrage, gender equality has not been achieved.

To try to change injustices, to move toward freedom and equality, requires getting used to disappointment. Often it’s a hard slog and  success is never guaranteed. But as we are taught in Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), while we are not obligated to complete the work neither can we refrain from doing so.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This does not mean we can be passive and justice will be inevitable. Rather, it is up to us to do everything in our power with our actions, including our votes, to help justice prevail.  As the former Attorney General Eric Holder cautioned, “the arc bends toward justice, but it only bends toward justice because people pull it towards justice. It doesn’t happen on its own.”

Let us all keep doing what we can, each in our own spheres of influence, to keep pushing for values and policies that will improve our communities, country and world. And of course, be sure to vote!