Resist effort to roll back anti-bias laws

Rabbi Susan Talve serves Central Reform Congregation.

By Rabbi Susan Talve

The gatherings we held for healing from the fear and anxiety caused by the election of Donald Trump seem a distant memory.  The initial shock has given way to deep concerns for our democracy and the loss of hope that the office would be bigger than the man.

I am worried about our nation, about the inequality in the nations of the world and about the health of our planet. I think about the assets and resources of our community and I wonder what more we can be doing to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  

The values of Torah that guide us are clear: Love your neighbor, do not stand idly by, be just in your economic dealings and treatment of workers, and that we are all in the image of god. These have formed the core values that have led many of us to stand on the front lines that confront racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and prejudice against immigrants and refugees. 

Every day, there seems to be another challenge to our values, and many in the Jewish community have found a myriad of ways to resist with awareness, education, acts of compassion and legislation. 


I hear from rabbis across the nation trying to balance the need for our prayer spaces to be shelters of peace and renewal for those who are seeking a refuge from this daily assault on our values with the prophetic call to speak the truth about the fear we have for the most vulnerable who are at risk by cuts by those who blame the sick for their illnesses. We are mindful that many are struggling with this balance at home, with friends and at work.  

We know that we must still work to protect health care and reproductive rights, do what we can about the nuclear fallout at West Lake landfill and address the climate crisis with the interests of the fossil fuel industry embedded in the White House. There are so many assaults on our values, it is good to focus on a local win.

This is the time to reach out to Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens to not sign SB 43.This bill would roll back decades of protections against discrimination based on race, gender, age, disability and religion. This bill would gut Missouri’s Human Rights Act and protect the wrongdoer by removing them from lawsuits. It would put whistleblowers at risk to employer retaliation and weaken civil rights protections for Missouri workers. It would put a burden on the victim of discrimination to prove that race or gender was the motivating factor rather than a contributing factor as the current law states.  

The author of the bill, Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, is facing litigation over alleged racial discrimination, which this bill would make hard to prove. This is an example of an elected official using and abusing his office for personal benefit. This, too, is an assault on our values that call us to make decisions for the common good. Please tell Gov. Greitens to not sign this bill (call his office: 573-751-3222).  

I am grateful to the St. Louis Rabbinical Association for issuing a statement protesting SB43, as well. As we continue to be guided by the values of Torah, I pray that we will continue to do our best to keep our sanctuaries holy places that balance the need for the peace of renewal with the prophetic call to resist.