I had the honor to speak at the Poor Peoples Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival rally and demonstration at the State Capitol this past Monday. It was the first of six weekly gatherings happening around the country and in Washington, DC:
My name is Rabbi Seth Goldstein and I am honored and proud to be with you all today as we gather together for these days of action on behalf of Poor People’s Campaign. From this Washington to the other Washington we are poised to bring a new moral reckoning to bear on this country.
Within these past few years, we have seen too much enmity directed towards too many people. We have seen the promotion of the good of the few at the expense of the many. The promotion of the now at the expense of the future. The promotion of war over peace, privilege over justice, might over equality, hatred over love and respect.
And at the same time, as we see this afternoon, there is a new revival of the spirit at hand. Building on the work of those who came before us, we know that in order to create that more perfect union we need to renew our commitment to values that are at the very heart of our spiritual traditions, and at the very heart of our notion of a shared humanity.
This coming weekend Jews will celebrate the festival of Shavuot. The festival that celebrates the biblical story of Sinai, of the revelation of the Torah by God through Moses, of the formation of the covenant. It is a story of a liberated people committing to a new vision of what society can look like. It is the story of the formation of a new type of nation, one that is not built on the subjugation of another, but one whose very foundation is the protection of the most vulnerable. One that recognizes the divine spark within each and every person. One that teaches that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, to treat each other as we wish to be treated, and that we are all part of one human family.
We as a nation have lost our way. But we as a people will bring us back.
Today, as we begin these next few weeks of action, we recall the theme for the day of someone’s hurting my people: women, children and people with disabilities living in poverty. The fact that anyone is being hurt is a moral wrong. Institutionalized poverty is a moral wrong.
As we read in Scripture, When the Israelites at Sinai were presented with the vision of the Torah, or this new way forward, they responded, in unison, naase v’nishma: We will do and we will hear. They accepted the challenge presented to them, just as we accept the challenge presented to us.
So today we echo those words, naase v’nishma. We will do and we will hear.
We will hear the stories of our neighbors who are being neglected and left behind.
We will hear of the impact of struggle, and institutionalized inequality, of systematic hatred.
We will hear from those who are being marginalized and who, often by design, are kept in the margins.
We will hear of the effect of policies that protect the powerful and not promote the people.
And we will act on what we hear. We will do.
We will advocate, we will march, we will open our hearts and we will raise our fists.
We will sound our call for a renewed sense of purpose and justice in this country.
We will envision a better future, and we will work to make that vision a reality.
We will do and we will hear.