Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,
On this, the 100th day of the Biden administration, I recall its first moments: Standing at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, President Biden called on us to unite. In the face of a convergence of crises, the President implored: “We must meet this moment as the United States of America…let us start afresh. All of us. Let us listen to one another. Hear one another. See one another. Show respect to one another.”
We, the contributors to the American Values, Religious Voices campaign, have taken up this call. On each of the last 99 days, we have written to you as scholars of religion from across the country to share values and perspectives from our diverse traditions and experiences. Each writer’s vision for America is unique. Yet, united, our message is clear. We urge you to pursue justice: racial justice, environmental justice, and economic justice. We urge you to build trust, equity, and respect for all. We urge you to govern and to lead with hope, wisdom, and a commitment to truth and the democratic process.
“This is a beginning for us, as individuals and as a nation…”
This letter marks the end of our 100-day project. Yet, this is still a beginning for the Biden administration and the 117th Congress. This is a beginning for us, as individuals and as a nation, to envision what we can be and to work to bring about that vision.
At moments like this, I am reminded of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. This annual fall ritual, which Jews read about in last week’s Torah portion (Leviticus 16:29-34), brings us together, united as a community. We acknowledge and reflect upon our actions over the past year and resolve to do better in the coming year.
Doing so divides time in two. There is what was. There is what will be.
What will be—the future—is ours to shape. Like Yom Kippur, this requires communal ownership of the work to be done: this is the work outlined in these 100 letters. United in purpose and in our diversity, we can acknowledge the past. United, we can meet the challenges of our moment and truly start afresh.
Daniel Fisher-Livne, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Bible
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion