The coincidental convergence of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, new gun control initiatives and the holiday of Tu B’Shevat compels us to face an inconvenient truth: When it comes to domestic policies that affect our families, our planet and our future, we’ve still got a long way to go.
President Barack Obama touched on some of these issues in his second inaugural speech on Monday, generating headlines touting a return to a “liberal” agenda. While we Jews may not be monolithic on some economic and foreign policy issues, these elements of the liberal agenda are ones that most of us thankfully do — and should — share.
The debate over abortion in this country predates the landmark Supreme Court decision that ruled the procedure a legal and a private matter to be decided by a woman and her doctor during the early months of pregnancy. But instead of laying to rest the contentious issue, the Jan. 22, 1973 ruling paved the way for decades of legal and legislative battles, with conservative forces seeking — and too often succeeding at — chipping away at a woman’s right to choose.
Pennsylvania now has some of the most restrictive laws in the nation. The state’s pro-choice record scores an “F” by NARAL, the national organization that rates states based on accessibility to reproductive health services. To be in favor of abortion rights does not mean you like abortion. No one does. It’s a cruel, painful decision that some women are compelled to make for physical or emotional reasons. This anniversary should serve as a forceful reminder that we must be pro-active in lobbying our lawmakers to ensure that reproductive rights for women are not further eroded.
On gun control, the recent massacre in Connecticut struck a deep chord. Political and religious leaders alike are finally waking up to an issue that shouldn’t be that complicated. We must continue to raise our voices — as many in our community were doing in Harrisburg this week — until new regulations are passed that will reduce the number of guns ending up in the wrong hands.
And lastly, as we celebrate Tu B’Shevat this Shabbat, connecting our tradition with the natural world we inhabit, we must not forget about issues like global warming that will affect our planet for generations. Some may not see these as Jewish issues, but they are. As American Jews, we have every reason to worry about — and lobby for — the safety and quality of the world we live in and the legacy we leave to our children.