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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

 

Forty days after the launch of “American Values Religious Voices: 100 Days. 100 Letters.” organizers announce that the grassroots interfaith initiative has reached over 2,075 subscribers and published forty 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 forty letters reflect the rich religious and ethnic diversity that defines this country and distinguishes this campaign. Recent letter writers highlight this diversity; they include Murali Balaji, Director of Education and Curriculum Reform at Hindu American Foundation, Jacqueline M. Hidalgo, Associate Professor of Latina/o Studies and Religion at Williams College, Randy S. Woodley, Distinguished Professor of Faith and Culture and Director of Intercultural and Indigenous Studies at Portland Seminary, Althea Spencer Miller, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Drew University, Danielle Widmann Abraham, Assistant Professor of Comparative Religion and Islamic Studies at Ursinus College, plus HUC-JIR faculty members Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Joshua Garroway.

American Values Religious Voices letters have responded in a timely manner to current events captivating our nation. Here are just a few examples:

On 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 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?”

On February 27—as news surfaced of drastic cuts to the EPA budget—William P. Brown argued that both the Bible and science call upon us to respond to ecological crises and exhibit the leadership needed to ensure that “the earth endures forever.”

Six weeks into the campaign, readers are turning to the letters each day “like a prayer” and using them in diverse settings, from a United Methodist Sunday School class in New Mexico to a Pittsburgh Jewish Community Center. We have received feedback from people across the country who have described the letters as an “anchor,” a “beacon of level-headedness and morality,” an “archive of compassion and democracy.”

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