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Central in Action

Central in Action

For more than 180 years, Central Synagogue has worked to make New York City and State a more just and equitable place for all of its residents. Through direct service, donation, and advocacy efforts, we have worked toward a New York in which all people can thrive.

Today, our Central in Action Leadership Team, together with Central Clergy and staff, coordinates our social justice work with a focus on creating real change in our communities through advocating at the state level. Central in Action explores the Jewish roots of social justice work and raises key questions that help guide and enrich our efforts to repair the world and understand the idea of “justice” in the Jewish tradition.

In 2016, members of our leadership team consulted with more than 500 Central congregants to learn about the issues in New York which most impacted and troubled our members. Overwhelmingly, our congregation asked us to focus on issues of racial justice, criminal justice, education, and immigration. Since then, we have worked in coalition with activists, advocates, and congregations from around New York to effect change in our state. 

Our Current Work

Criminal Justice Reform and #LessIsMoreNY

We are proud to stand with #LessIsMoreNY to reform the parole system in our state. Some of the highest rates of COVID-19 have been in jails and prisons across the country. New York is no exception. Today, there are thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers behind bars, hundreds for non-criminal violations of parole. New York reincarcerates more people on parole for technical violations like missing an appointment with a parole officer, being late for curfew, or testing positive for alcohol than any state in the country except Illinois.

Continuing the Work in Criminal Justice Reform During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Central sees our work in criminal justice reform as part of our commitment to ending systemic racism in our country.  We have continued to engage in advocacy work on this issue during the pandemic. In March, 2020 Central Synagogue asked Governor Cuomo to release those incarcerated under technical parole violations, or near the end of their sentences, given the high rates of infection during the pandemic. Click here to read the full statement.

Meet Some of Our Partners 

Hunger and Food Insecurity

The economic challenges presented by COVID-19 have only heightened the sense of urgency around addressing food insecurity in our city. In January 2021 we began a campaign focused on food insecurity in New York and are now working with several organizations as well as conducting our own research into issues of hunger and food insecurity so that we can effectively push state and local officials on hunger related policies. You can view our Hunger and Food Insecurity Town Hall event here.

Meet Some of Our Partners

Some of Our Previous Work 

Turn on the TAP NY campaign to reinstate New York’s Tuition Assistance Program for men and women earning college degrees while incarcerated. 

Bail Reform Campaign to eliminate cash bail (which disproportionately restricts the liberty of those without the ability to pay), decrease the number of pre-trial detainees, and ensure robust due process for all.

Raise the Age NY Campaign to raise the presumptive age of criminal responsibility in New York and advocate for justice, support, resources for youth in our carceral system.  

Learn More

Curious to know more about Central in Action? Read our FAQs here.

In Case You Missed It

How Can the Lessons From the Exodus Story Help Us Better Understand Issues of Mass Incarceration?

March 21, 2021 

An incredible evening of learning with Rabbi Hilly Haber, John Ducksworth of the multifaith initiative Ending Mass Incarceration, and other faith leaders for an interactive conference that included an engaging panel conversation, breakout room workshops, and musical performances. Guests: Rabbi Angela Buchdahl (Central Synagogue), Reverend Dr, Senatro Raphael G. Warnock, Pastor Peter Vaughn (Ebenezer Baptist Church), Rabbi Lydia Medwin (The Temple), Rabbi Nicole Auerbach (Central Synagogue), Rabbi Barat Ellman (T’ruah), Rabbi Dr. Barat Ellman (Bard Prison Initiative, Eric Waters, Melissa Iachan (Environmental Justice Program at NYLPI), Darren Mack (Freedom Agenda), and Chef Brandon Chrostowski (EDWINS).

Check out more recordings of past events here.