We Will Rise Up

I stand before you as a white male rabbi.

As a rabbi, I could speak about the Jewish laws that not only permit but may even require an abortion if a woman’s life is in danger. (Mishneh Oholot 7:6) Whether she is in physical, mental or economic danger, in Judaism the fetus becomes a rodef, a pursuer, and her life, until that child emerges from her body, takes precedence. I could recite to you the Mishnah, a sacred text codified in 200 CE that painfully describes abortion. I could interpret 2000 years of Jewish text that expand upon that idea across all spectrums of Jewish life from the most liberal to the most traditional.

But I won’t go into that detail here, tonight, because our sacred texts, written thousands of years ago, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, first nations people, or any other religion should not be the reason that we restrict the rights of people in this country to make decisions about their own bodies.

Our laws SHOULD be based upon our collective values as a nation to love our neighbor and stranger and allow women, and all people, to make decisions about their own bodies based upon their own circumstances and beliefs.

And as a white man, I stand with and behind women, transgender and non-binary people everywhere whose rights are restricted by other white males. I vow to use my privilege to fight for justice.

It was white men of course, many who owned slaves, who wrote the constitution of the United States. Today a majority of the Supreme Court Justices decided that abortion is not a right because, as Justice Alito reasoned during the oral arguments, “a right to abortion cannot be found in the Constitution or inferred from its provisions.”

Well, Justice Alito, it cannot be found in the constitution because that document was written by white, slave-owning men who have never represented the majority of the people living in the United States of America.

On the contrary, we have had laws in this country that control the reproductive freedom of women, of Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color. These laws have been a tool of white supremacy dating back to slavery. A White Supremacy intimately intertwined with antisemitism dating back millennia that has enabled the attempted annihilation of the Jewish people more than once. A White supremacy that also wants to control and restrict other “inferred” rights.

In today’s majority opinion Justice Thomas writes “that in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” Ending the right to contraception, to anti-sodomy laws, to marriage equality.

We stand here today because we will fight for our freedom. We will fight for everyone’s freedom. Personally, I will fight for the freedom of my four-and-a-half-year-old daughter to have full autonomy over her own body.

At 7pm tonight our community will begin our Shabbat services. This week our service is Pride shabbat, during which we celebrate and affirm that all human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, and that all human beings deserve and are worthy of love, equality, equity, and personal autonomy over their bodies.

Our celebration tonight will certainly be less joyful. But I promise that no one, no judge, no justice, no senator, no one, can take away our right to love. Like the psalmist writes: Olam chesed y’baneh, we will build a world of love (psalm 89)

Shabbat Shalom, may we rest on this day, and tomorrow rise up and fight like never before.