Our History and Vision

Vision looks inward and becomes duty. Vision looks outward and becomes aspiration. Vision looks upward and becomes faith. – Rabbi Stephen S. Wise

BJ has long believed that involvement in political action and social change efforts are at the heart of what it means to be a contemporary Jewish community. Since BJ’s refounding by Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer in the 80s, we have been engaged in some of the most pressing social and political matters of the day as an expression of our faith values:

  • opening our doors to gay and lesbian Jews during the height of the AIDS epidemic, when many other religious institutions were rejecting homosexuals;
  • founding a women’s shelter, which operates to this day, in partnership with the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew;
  • launching a community organizing initiative called Panim el Panim in 2003 and helping to pass legislation such as the Marriage Equality Act and the New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights;
  • lobbying to extend labor protections to migrant farm workers;
  • protecting the environment by greening our own supply chain and participating in local campaigns and national demonstrations.

Most recently, we have responded to the issues of immigration and refugees by founding the Synagogue Coalition on the Refugee and Immigration Crisis, and have launched a racial justice initiative that seeks both to engage in external political campaigns and to look internally at how racial dynamics play out in our own diverse BJ community. Nearly all of this work happens in deep partnership with other Jewish, Christian and Muslim organizations, a testament to our belief in the power of relationships and interfaith collaboration.