Rabbis from Across the Country Join Local Leaders to Stand for Abortion Rights


November 9, 2022

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Rabbis from Across the Country Join Local Leaders to Stand for Abortion Rights

St. Louis, MO – Over one hundred Conservative-Masorti rabbis from around the world gathered in support of abortion rights at Memorial Park this morning, part of the 2022 Rabbinical Assembly (RA) convention which was held this week at the Ritz Carlton in Clayton, MO.

This morning’s event joined Conservative Jewish movement rabbis and reproductive justice advocates with local political, interfaith, and reproductive rights allies–partnering in particular with National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) national and NCJW St. Louis–to raise awareness of the critical need to protect access to abortion and other life-saving medical procedures, as firmly established by Jewish law, tradition, and the fundamental right to religious freedom.

The event was emceed by Rabbi Ariella Rosen, Director of Youth and Family Education and Engagement at Northampton, MA’s Congregation B’nai Israel and half of the first same-sex rabbinical couple married in the Conservative movement, and Rabbi Micah Buck-Yael of St. Louis, the national Director of Education and Training at Keshet, the national Jewish LGBTQ grassroots organization.

Rabbi Harold Kravitz, President of the Rabbinical Assembly, the association of the world’s Conservative movement rabbis, opened the event by reaffirming the RA’s five-decade commitment to access to safe and legal abortion. “This support is firmly based on Judaism’s understanding of biblical and rabbinic sources, as well as on modern rabbinic responses,” said Kravitz, who also hearkened back to the RA’s 2021 resolution to protect reproductive freedom.

Amy Kuo Hammerman, board member and State Policy Advocacy Chair for the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) St. Louis, spoke about the specific impact of the abortion ban in Missouri, which was the first state to trigger a law, just moments after the repeal of Roe v. Wade. “This law takes one religious perspective and imposes it on everyone in this state, said Hammerman. “I am a Jewish woman, and Missouri’s abortion ban is against my religion.”

Speakers also included Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin, the second-ever female president of the Rabbinical Assembly and the first Conservative female congregational rabbi in Chicago and Prof. Rabbi Pamela Barmash, Chair of the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards and Professor of Hebrew Bible and Biblical Hebrew at Washington University in St. Louis.

“I am frightened, and I am tired, and I am really sad. But I am not alone,” Kamin said to the cheers of her supportive colleagues. “The Rabbinical Assembly is here for us to speak about reproductive rights, and to provide us with the support and help that we need for the battle that generations before did for us, that we must now do for ourselves.”

Barmash emphasized that Jewish law permits abortion, both surgically and with medication. She acknowledged that our tradition has a nuanced view on abortion, and noted, “Those who are pregnant or providing healing must be allowed to follow their conscience and religious traditions without infringing on the right of others to follow their conscience and religious traditions.”

Rabbi Aaron Brusso, Senior Rabbi of Bet Torah (Mt. Kisco, N.Y.) and Secretary of the RA, spoke from a personal viewpoint of clergy who have counseled women and families through reproductive choices. “Despite the impression some of us may have, it is critical to know that these are not careless decisions,” explained Brusso. “These decisions involve: Heartbreak. Tears. Lost Dreams. We balance the sacredness of life with the fact that life emerges gradually within the life of another person whose life is also sacred. Most importantly, we trust. We trust women with the freedom to take moral responsibility over their own lives.”

The event ended with Rabbi Lauren Henderson of Congregation Or Hadash (Sandy Springs, Georgia) leading the group in the song “We Rise” by Batya Levine. The lyrics emphasized the culmination of not only this event, but that of four days of learning, living, praying and dreaming together in St. Louis.

“In hope, in prayer, we find ourselves here. In hope, in prayer, we’re right here.”