May 2017 Message from BAW President, Nancy Federman | Congregation Beth Am

May 2017 Message from BAW President, Nancy Federman

“You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it (2:21).” -- Pikei Avot.
As Women of Reform Judaism we have a tradition of social action going back more than 100 years. We have been pioneers for Reform movement advocacy. Today there are a large number of pressing issues and it is often hard to know where to focus at any point in time. WRJ has created an Advocacy Plan to help guide us:
Their top suggestion is to prioritize: “The scope and speed of this activity is overwhelming. It’s difficult to know where and how to bring our Reform Jewish values into the public arena. If we try to do everything we will be immobilized, but doing nothing is not an option. To be effective, we will need to prioritize and focus our energy and maximize our capacity to mobilize our members.” The WRJ Advocacy Plan has a suggested list of priorities. And in her Social Justice column Felicia describes the social justice priority BAW has selected for the coming year. Please join with the BAW community as we work together to advance the task.
Planning and prioritizing and organizing are important. Sometimes, though, physical action is empowering and energizing. So on Shabbat, April 22, Earth Day, I again prayed with my feet – I marched in SF in the March for Science. My degrees and career have been in science and math. As Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”  I was surprised to find it necessary to march to make this point. One sign read, “I can’t believe that I have to protest for facts.”
As I thought about the science non-believers, I also thought about those that say that science and religion are at odds. I never felt that Judaism was antithetical to science. On the contrary I felt that, as Rabbi Mitelman said, “… science is never to take anything on faith. Science is about continually questioning assumptions, revising theories and integrating new data. So critical thinking — an essential aspect of science — is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition.” Two Jews, three opinions.
In his article in the Huffington Post, Aug 20, 2011, “Why Judaism embraces Science,” Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman concludes:
“Science is about creating hypotheses and testing data against these theories. Judaism is about how we act to improve this world, here and now. And these processes can easily go hand in hand.
So yes, if science and religion are seen to be competing sources of truth and authority, they will always be in conflict — especially if religion is “blind acceptance and complete certainty about silly, superstitious fantasies.” But if instead religion is about helping people create a deeper sense of meaning and a stronger sense of their values, then I truly believe that science and religion can be brought together to improve ourselves, our society and our world.”
And as one of my favorite posters says:
“Think like a proton – stay positive.”

Calling all women who have an elementary school age child! Please join our new google group. This group has just been set up as a way to connect with each other as well as a place to plan small and large get togethers. The goal is to  help create connections and community.  To join, please send an email to In the subject line please say, BAW family Google group so she is sure to see it.

—Nancy Federman

Congregation Beth Am
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We strive to live as a holy community whose study and practice of Judaism inspires and challenges us to "do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8).