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How Does One Pack for a Journey for Justice? …Bring a Torah, Too!

How does one pack for a journey for justice?

A 40-day march from Selma, Alabama to Washington DC to stand up for justice in our amazing country?

A linen shirt for the 90 degree temperatures and the 79% humidity. … And a Torah too.

40 days to reflect Moses’ 40 days atop Mt. Sinai where he received Torah, laws for how to create a just society.

A wide brimmed hat … And a Torah too.

40 days to recall the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, transforming themselves into a free people.

Sunscreen. Lots of sunscreen … And a Torah too.

40 days to remember the march from Selma by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and those who marched to transform us into a free society.

Comfortable walking shoes … And a Torah too. So much still needs to be done in our nation. For all people.

Calling All Rabbis

So the call forth. To assemble each day, rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), to march alongside the NAACP and people of all religions and colors, to transform ourselves and our nation into the shining example of liberty and justice we aspire to be. #tzedeksummer #justicesummer

 A book (Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, a searingly honest letter from African-American father to his son, about the racism, injustice and danger he inevitably will face growing up with brown skin in a country dominated by people with white skin) …and a Torah too.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in Selma

In 1965, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the modern American Jewish prophet, famously said of his time spent on the Voting Rights March in Selma, Alabama, that “I felt my legs were praying.”

In 2015, Rabbi Joel N. Abraham wrote, [Today] “we pray a lot in the synagogue, sitting and standing, but perhaps we do not take enough time to walk the walk; to pray with our feet.”

So I’m off to Montgomery, Alabama, to march as Vice President of the CCAR (our rabbinic organization) on the second day of this important march. Along with over 150 other Reform Rabbis, we each take a day, to retrace  our ancient Israelite journey for justice.

 … And a Torah too.

Carrying Torah and its Message of Justice

I will carry a Torah, our sacred scroll, our people’s moral compass. God’s gift to the world that demands we stand up and step forward up for justice.

Based on Torah, Rabbi Eliezer said, “Other people’s dignity should be as precious to you as your own.” (Pirkei Avot 2:10).

Based on Torah, we teach in our new book, Jewish Spiritual Parenting (Jewish Lights Publishing), that our children learn by what we do, not just what we say.

So based on Torah, I roused myself at 3:00 am for a cross country flight, to meet my daughter Rachel, so together we can stand up, step forth, and speak out for justice.

How does one pack for America’s Journey for Justice?

 With comfortable shoes, lots of sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat, a book about justice, my eldest child … And a Torah too.

For as Rabbi Hillel reminded us, Torah calls us to act:

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me.”

I march for myself, and for the country I want to continue building.

“If I am only for myself, what am I?”

I march for all Americans, all people, deserving of justice, compassion, equality and fairness.I march on Sunday. For my 20 miles.

It’s time to step forward.

As Rabbi Hillel said, “If not now, when?!”


Follow my journey on Facebook (Paul Kipnes).
And on my blog, http://paulkipnes.com.


  1. Dusty says:

    Godspeed. Soak in every moment. May Or Ami’s Torah teach as it bears witness to this journey, may your conversations along the way be full of learning, and may the sound of all of your footsteps be heard throughout this country.

    (A little bit jealous to miss this, and glad to be able to experience vicariously through your words)

    • Paul says:

      I trembled at the transfer of the Torah from rabbi Seth Limmer to me. Felt momentous and significant. May we carry it with honor as we bring wholeness to the brokenness of our world.

  2. Nadine Levy says:

    Wow! I am in awe and wish I could be there to participate in such a wonderful act. Thank you for being such a great leader and setting an amazing example for our children.

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