Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,
The prophet Zechariah, describing his vision of a restored society, tells the people: “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates” (Zechariah 8:16). The psalmist considered truth and justice synonymous and imagined that together they form an essential connection between heaven and earth:
“Faithfulness and truth meet;
justice and well-being kiss.
Truth springs up from the earth;
justice looks down from heaven.” (Psalm 85:11-12)
And yet truth has been under attack in our nation. These attacks have endangered our health, resulted in violence, and further eroded the sense of commonality and trust in one another that is the foundation of a stable, functional society.
Moreover, we as a nation are being challenged to acknowledge some truths that have been denied for too long, the denial of which has resulted in innumerable injustices. The legacy of racism and bigotry in all its forms, blatant and hidden, continues to do irreparable harm, first and foremost to its immediate victims, but ultimately to us as a country and a society, morally and even economically.
“Today we are called by truth and justice to craft a new national narrative that tells the whole truth.”
Today we are called by truth and justice to craft a new national narrative that tells the whole truth. We seek a narrative that includes everyone, acknowledges our failures and celebrates our successes. We need a new narrative to empower us to realize a shared understanding of justice in our national life.
Zechariah urged us to “speak truth to one another.” Speaking truth that leads to justice is a dialogic process; it requires each of us to engage with our neighbors in a manner that leads to mutual understanding, empathy, and ultimately to personal and national transformation.
Zechariah also spoke of “rendering justice in the gates,” referring to the responsibility of leadership to govern in that same spirit. We look to you to lead us toward a future of truth and justice, equality and equity, so that—in a phrase from the prophet Micah, beloved by George Washington—“all can sit under their vine and under their fig tree, with nothing to make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).
David Fox Sandmel
Rabbi David Fox Sandmel, Ph.D.
Senior Advisor on Interreligious Affairs
ADL (Anti-Defamation League)