image of capitol building
California state Capitol building in Sacramento. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

Equity, justice and fairness — state propositions that address all three

The sound of the shofar is like an alarm clock — a reminder to take time to reflect, examine our actions and improve ourselves and the community around us.

This annual reminder strongly resonated with me as the year 5780 concluded. Not only are we currently facing the dual threats of a global pandemic and unprecedented wildfires, but our nation continues to struggle with pervasive racial inequality, limited economic opportunity and declining trust in democratic institutions. These challenges are not new. They have existed for decades and are perpetuated by our failure to meaningfully address structural inequities and historical wrongs.

While listening to the shofar, many in the Jewish community, myself included, asked themselves, “What steps can I take to be part of the solution and stop these cycles of injustice?” This question is especially meaningful, as we are reminded on Rosh Hashanah that improving one’s self and community is not a passive process, but requires us to act.

Over the next month, we in the Jewish community can use a simple yet powerful tool to make a lasting difference and promote real change — voting.

While JCRC generally focuses on promoting our public policy agenda through legislation, this year we saw a unique opportunity to elevate our core Jewish values and confront structural racism and economic inequality through the ballot. Based on the consensus of our JCRC Assembly, an advisory body representing over 50 synagogues and Jewish organizations across the Bay Area, JCRC recently launched our “Recovery, Opportunity, Democracy” campaign in support of Propositions 15, 16 and 17.

These three ballot measures seek to redress unjust policies implemented more than 20 years ago in California. Proposition 15 confronts economic inequality by increasing local government and school funding with tax increases on high-value commercial property. Proposition 16 increases opportunity for all Californians by allowing government institutions to implement affirmative action policies. Proposition 17 expands our democracy by allowing individuals on parole to vote in elections. Each ballot measure in its own way is a vehicle for tikkun olam and a form of restorative justice, and each proposition squarely addresses concerns outlined in JCRC’s community consensus statements on Economic Justice, Racial Justice and Democracy in the United States, respectively. Rarely has any single ballot had such sweeping potential impact.

During these holidays, as is traditional, our Jewish community came together, asked for forgiveness and declared that we should all be judged equally, regardless of our background or circumstances. So, in this new year, let’s not forget to act on these resolutions. Let’s ensure our schools and government are properly funded, that people of all backgrounds are afforded fair access to educational and economic opportunity, and that we practice the act of forgiveness by allowing parolees to be part of our democratic system.

Join JCRC in heeding the call for justice in the new year and voting “yes” on Propositions 15, 16 and 17.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of J.

David Newman
David Newman

David Newman is a board member of the Jewish Community Relations Council, former president of Congregation Sherith Israel and an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission. He is a San Francisco native and UC Berkeley alumnus.