By Rabbi Michael Feinberg
Last week, I joined a group of 25 Episcopal seminarians and clergy in a vigil outside the gates of General Theological Seminary in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. We gathered in support of the "GTS8," the eight full-time faculty of the seminary who had been fired for attempting to unionize and address critical issues at their workplace including harassment, intimidation and retaliation.
For an hour and a half in the rain, to the backdrop of a smoldering sunset, we prayed, sang, process around the block around GTS, and ultimately onto the campus cloister itself. The tone was prayerful, communal--if entirely Christian.
Why did I as a Jew and a rabbi join this vigil?
Because I believe it is imperative that our faith institutions reflect our religious values and ethic—values including human dignity and equality, the rights of workers and economic justice. These are central in my own tradition as I know they are in the Episcopal church. It is essential that as faith communities we "practice what we preach," particularly in the instruction of future clergy and faith leaders.
The situation at GTS is a clear dismissal of the Episcopalian Church’s stand on worker justice and outright denial of workers’ rights to organize and engage in collective bargaining. While the GTS 8 have been "provisionally reinstated" their tenure and status have been compromised, and their concerns for their hostile environment have not been addressed. Because the board refuses to address the hostile work environment, I will continue to pray for and stand in solidarity with the GTS8, and I encourage all people of faith to do the same.
Rabbi Michael Feinberg directs the Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition in NYC, and proudly supports the GTS8