“American Values Religious Voices: 100 Days. 100 Letters.” Campaign Finds a Receptive Audience for Letters from Religious Scholars on American Values

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Twenty days after the launch of “American Values Religious Voices: 100 Days. 100 Letters.” organizers announce that the grassroots interfaith initiative has reached over 1800 subscribers and published twenty letters on a range of timely issues. Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion has convened and funded this campaign, under the leadership of Founder and Campaign Coordinator, Andrea L. Weiss, Associate Professor of Bible at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.

Every morning since Inauguration Day on January 20, a letter written by a different scholar of religion has been sent to the President, Vice President, and every member of the 115th Congress and published on the campaign website.

The authors of the first twenty letters reflect the rich religious and ethnic diversity that defines this country and distinguishes this campaign. The most recent letter writers include Shalom Holtz, Associate Professor of Bible at Yeshiva University, Carmen Nanko-Fernández, Professor of Hispanic Theology and Ministry at Catholic Theological Union, Emilie M. Townes, Dean and Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Anantanand  Rambachan, Professor of Religion, Philosophy, and Asian Studies at Saint Olaf College, Karina Martin Hogan, Associate Professor of Theology at Fordham University, and M. Craig Barnes. President and Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Princeton Theological seminary.

American Values Religious Voices letters have responded in a timely manner to current events captivating our nation. For instance:

On Friday, January 27—two days after President Trump ordered the construction of a border wall—letter writer Jean-Pierre Ruiz  quoted Nehemiah, Pope Francis, and Ronald Reagan as he spoke out against the proposed wall: “Together, then, let us start building--not walls, but bridges, roads, and communities.”

On Saturday, January 28the day after President Trump issued his immigration ban—Ellen Armour’s letter asked: What would Jesus do in response to the current refugee crisis? Citing the New Testament and a church in Tennessee, she urged us to “commit ourselves to greeting refugees with love and faith, rather than rejecting them with hate and fear.”

On Sunday, January 29—as people protested at airports across the country—Bill Leonard’s letter looked back to the early Baptists to remind us that America was founded as a shelter for people of all religions and that even now, “dissent remains perilous.”

On Monday, January 30—as Americans grappled with what it means to live in a country that issues a “Muslim ban”—Eboo Patel wrote about pluralism and the American dream from his perspective as a proud American Muslim of Indian descent. He challenged our President, Vice President, and Members of the Cabinet and Congress: “Every generation has to keep the American promise. Will you?”

Just three weeks into the campaign, American Values Religious Voices has received an overwhelmingly positive response from its readers. Subscribers have written to tell us how they are using the letters in diverse settings, from a United Methodist Sunday School class in New Mexico to a program with seniors at a Pittsburgh Jewish Community Center. One subscriber reads the letters “like a prayer each day.” For another, these letters serve as “an anchor,” a reminder of Dr. Martin Luther King’s quote that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but bends towards justice.” Another reader thanked us for the letters and wrote: “I am an atheist--BUT, that doesn't make me blind to 'good words' and 'good advice.'”   

For more information about American Values Religious Voices and to subscribe to the letters, visit valuesandvoices.com. Follow the campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @ValuesandVoices.


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Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu