On Sunday, February 2nd, 200 members of Jewish Community Action and NCJW Minneapolis met with Minnesota legislators to discuss the issues we’ll work on this year at the legislature. Members of our community spoke about campaigns to raise the minimum wage, to bring an end to gun violence, and to prevent bullying and make schools safer for all Minnesota students. In this guest post, JCA member Michael Kuhne shares his reflection on the event.
I had a wonderful time at the Conversation with Minnesota Legislators gathering at Mount Zion Temple on Sunday afternoon, February 2nd. It is always exciting to be with concerned Jewish citizens who want to make a positive difference in our communities. Rabbi Adam Spilker asked the 200+ in attendance (including 18 Minnesota legislators), “What kind of society do we wish to create and live in?” Rabbi Alexander Davis provocatively questioned, “Do we know when to scream? Do we know when to call out [injustice]?” These questions infused the time we spent together, not only while listening to three community members speak to the prominent social justice issues of financial justice, safe and supportive schools, and gun violence, but also while talking with one another at small table gatherings. I was particularly moved by Izzy Rousmaniere’s story of her time as a high school student, both as a witness to and victim of bullying. It made me feel more hopeful about the future, knowing that young people like Izzy (as well as the two young people at my table and the many others throughout the room) feel passionately about social justice issues and are willing to speak out.
I felt honored that Representative Tim Mahoney sat at my table. He listened carefully and he replied thoughtfully. I appreciated not only his honest assessment of the upcoming legislative sessions, but also the encouragement the entire gathering received from Sen. Richard Cohen and House Majority Leader, Rep. Erin Murphy. They were enthusiastic and even confident that we could move the agenda forward with financial justice by increasing the minimum wage, and while there remains discussion about the exact language of a bill, they were both confident that something positive could happen with the Safe and Supportive Schools Act to address bullying in schools. Neither legislator, however, was confident that anything would happen with gun violence legislation unless there is a serious and intentional conversation, not just between ourselves but more importantly with our fellow outstate Minnesotans. The National Rifle Association has controlled the rhetoric and the debate about guns for many years, and our elected officials need us to enter into the larger conversations and debates in order to expect meaningful legislation. Clearly, there is much work to be done on all three issues.
Personally, I am always energized by these gatherings and my hope is renewed. I need to seek out these events, not only for the inspiration that I take but also for the ways in which these gatherings hold me accountable to a greater good. When I am surrounded by this energy and power, I feel a very real sense of urgency, a responsibility to act. Thanks both to the National Council of Jewish Women and Jewish Community Action for a great afternoon and for your ongoing efforts to work with others to repair the world. From here, there is so much work to do – even if you could not make the Conversation, there is still ample opportunity to get involved.