More than 50 Reform rabbis, cantors and activists gathered Oct. 25 in the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus to urge lawmakers to support Senate Bill 66, which would seal criminal records of formerly incarcerated people for some nonviolent crimes.
The gathering was organized by Reform OH, a group to bring together Reform Jews across Ohio in the pursuit of justice reform. The organization said in a news release that by passing the bill, it will give formerly incarcerated individuals the opportunity to rebuild their lives.
“We believe that everyone is created b’tzelem Elohim – in the image of God,” said Rabbi Allison B. Vann of Suburban Temple-Kol Ami in Beachwood. “Therefore, we have an obligation to treat each person as instruments of holiness, to care for each other in times of joy, as well as in times of challenge. The work of rehabilitative justice is part of this work. We are acting as God’s partners to begin to heal the broken prison system.”
Local rabbis attending included: Rabbi Lauren Werber from Temple B’nai Abraham in Elyria; Rabbi Eddie Sukol from The Shul in Pepper Pike; Rabbi Melinda Mersack from the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland; Rabbi Joshua Caruso and Rabbi-Educator Jordana-Chernow Reader from Anshed Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood; Rabbi Enid Lader from Beth Israel-The West Temple in Cleveland, and Rabbis Jon Adland and John Spitzer from Temple Israel in Canton.
The group heard from formerly incarcerated people and families who have been impacted, as well as Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, and SB 66 co-sponsors Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus, and John Ecklund, R-Munson Township.