Report & Video: 3 Rabbis Among 70 Religious Leaders on Pilgrimage to Challenge Congressional Republicans

We Prayed for Congressional Courage

To End Govt Shut-down & Prevent Debt Default

Yesterday (Oct 15, 2013), more than 70 prominent religious leaders (including three rabbis) joined with locked-out federal workers in a Pilgrimage on Capitol Hill to urge an immediate end to the government shutdown and urgent passage of laws to prevent a default on the US debt.

I used my I-phone to take three videos of our Pilgrimage. The first two were taken as we gathered; the third, another clergyperson took as two other rabbis and I, and other Pilgrims with us, talked with staff of House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor. (See below for a verbal description of our visit there.)

<>   (Rabbi David Shneyer leading the Pilgrimage in a song from Psalm 101)

 <>   (Sister Simone Campbell of Network speaking as Pilgrimage began)

 <>   (Our visit to Congressman Eric Cantor's office)
We marched on key House Republican offices – Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and “moderates” who have said they are willing to vote for ending the crisis   – but have so far not had the courage to break with the rest of the Republican caucus.

Three Rabbis led a multireligious delegation to the office of Congressman Cantor. He is the only Jewish Republican member of Congress and a strongly right-wing member of the Republican caucus. We asked to meet with him, but his staff said that he was at a meeting in the Capitol, presumably to explore a solution to the government crisis.

The three rabbis were David Shneyer, founder of the Fabrangen Fiddlers, former president of Ohalah  and spiritual leader of Am Kolel congregation; Rabbi Gerry Serotta, founder of New Jewish Agenda, executive director of Clergy Beyond Borders, and spiritual leader of Congregation Shirat HaNefesh; and me, on behalf of The Shalom Center.

I began the conversation with Mr. Cantor’s staff by reading from the Pilgrimage letter. (For its text see <

Rabbis Shneyer and Serotta then spoke to the need for Mr. Cantor’s Jewish soul to respond to the outcry of the poor, the aged, the mothers --  all suffering from the shut-down.

About thirty clergy of Catholic, Protestant, and other religious groups also crowded into Congressman Cantor’s office. And among us were also several low-income employees of Federal contractors who had been thrown out of their jobs by the government shut-down. Two of them spoke in Spanish and had their stories of urgent deprivation – no money to pay rent or buy food – translated for the staff.

We sang a song composed by David Shneyer from the first verse of Psalm 101: “Of love and justice I will sing; to You, O God, I’ll sing praises!” We ended with David’s sounding the shofar as a cry of alarm and a call to turn in a new direction.

As the shut-down continues, seniors are seeing “Meals on Wheels” cut, pregnant women and infants are losing vital nutrition support, veterans are facing benefit cuts, and communities are put in peril by the suspension of crucial environmental protections and food-safety  inspections.

This suffering –- and the worse that will follow if the US for the first time in history defaults on its debt –-  is being caused by the intransigence of the Republican leadership and caucus.

 Network, the Catholic social-justice lobby that famously organized “nuns on the bus,” initiated the Pilgrimage. “It’s time for irresponsible factions in Congress to stop this reckless behavior and end this shutdown immediately,” said Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of Network. “There is no moral justification for holding struggling families, pregnant women and seniors hostage.”
Among the organizations that endorsed the Pilgrimage and/ or sent leaders to it were the National Council of Churches, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Unitarian Universalist Association, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Faith in Public Life, Church World Service, American Friends Service Committee, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, and major sections of the Disciples of Christ.

The Shalom Center and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College were the only national Jewish organizations to endorse the Pilgrimage.  (Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, a member of the board of The Shalom Center and a member of the faculty of RRC, led in persuading RRC to endorse the Pilgrimage.)

I hope that our leadership in doing this will inspire you-all to join NOW in supporting The Shalom Center’s work – this kind of religiously and spiritually rooted “speaking truth to power.” Today, for us to keep speaking as a prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and American life requires paying not only very modest staff salaries but also train fares, telephone and Email bills, and computer upkeep. Only YOU can make our work possible.

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Many thanks and blessings of shalom, salaam, paz, peace.


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