I am so grateful that Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz invited me to join her and other leaders to stand with her in opposition to dangerous laws being forced through the Florida legislature. My words are below. Please join me in standing up for the rights of every Floridian.
Today is the 7th day of Passover, a sacred day in Judaism, as on this day, more than 3,000 years ago, we are taught that the Red Sea parted and the Israelites crossed, leaving behind the persecution of Pharaoh.
For many of my Jewish brothers and sisters, today is a day of prayer, a day to reflect on Torah which teaches “You shall not oppress another, for you know what it feels like to have your rights taken away, having yourselves been oppressed in the land of Egypt.” Traditionally this prayer and reflection is done in the synagogue.
But, when my Congresswoman asked me to attend today, I thought about the words of the great Jewish philosopher. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a man who marched for Civil Rights with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in Selma. When asked if he had time to pray while in Selma, Rabbi Heschel responded, “I prayed with my feet.” Today, while I am no Heschel, instead of praying and reflecting on freedom in my synagogue, I am standing here, praying and reflecting by living the words of Torah and ensuring that our state does not behave like Pharaoh.
I am praying and reflecting today by standing in opposition to laws that will further stigmatize and discriminate against our LGBTQ family members and friends.
I am praying and reflecting today by condemning attempts to strip women of their right to make fundamental decisions about their health, decisions that should be made by women, with the guidance of their doctors, clergy, and family.
I am praying and reflecting today by expressing my belief that diversity, equity and inclusion should be three words that define our state’s college campuses. And that our schools’ libraries must contain books that empower students to explore a variety of topics, wrestle with complex issues, and expand their minds. Learning about people different from us, studying the terrible mistakes that have been made that have oppressed others, taking time to appreciate the beauty of other cultures, traditions, and religions – this is how we overcome the ignorance and hate that encourages some to act like Pharoah and attempt to subjugate others.
I am praying and reflecting today by asking our state’s political leaders to truly stand up for the safety, security, and well-being of our children, our families, and our schools by changing course and tightening our state’s gun laws. Every Floridian, especially our children, should have the right to go about their days without the fear of gun-related violence. This fear is real and is becoming more oppressive with each shooting. In the state of Florida, we know just how oppressive it is. Our legislators must liberate us from the plague of gun violence.
Rabbi Heschel, who prayed with his feet as he fought for civil rights taught us: “morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
If any of our brothers or sisters here in Florida are oppressed, persecuted, discriminated against, harmed in any way, yes, some are more guilty than others…but, let us remember, we are all responsible. And so, I stand before you today, praying and reflecting, that we do everything in our power to ensure that the rights of every Floridian are protected and that our state is a place where neighbors can openly be proud of themselves and embrace the differences that define who we really are and no one is legislated into a second class citizen.