Tag Archives: Civil Rights

Protecting the Right To Vote

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  -Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1965, change was in the air.  At the height of the American civil rights movement, African-American leaders were working to eliminate the barriers that prevented minorities from exercising their 15th Amendment rights to vote.  The new amendment, known as the Voting Rights Act (VRA), was successfully signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson that year.

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Frankie Salzman

40 Years of Fighting to End Workplace Discrimination

In 1974, two members of the House of Representatives, Reps. Bella Abzug (D-NY) and Ed Koch (D-NY), introduced a bill entitled the “Equality Act of 1974″.  This bill would ban discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment on a national level. This was the first of its kind. In 1994, this effort morphed into a bill known as ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  At first, this legislation would have made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation.  For some, this wasn’t enough, as the 1994 bill did not include gender identity or expression until 2007 when actual or perceived gender identity/expression was added under what constituted illegal discrimination in the bill. Support for ENDA continued to grow, and in fact, this past November the Senate passed ENDA with sexual orientation and gender identity/expression included.

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Honoring our Legacy by Continuing the Work

As I think back on my years of service and involvement in Jewish communal life, I marvel at the key role the Reform Movement played in advancing and achieving civil rights, both in the lead-up to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and in the years since.

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Civil Rights & Swimming Pools

50 Years of Progress Still Measured by Daily Events

As a mother of two young girls, I most look forward to Sundays in the spring and summer time. Each week, I plan different activities – biking, swimming, hiking, and the like – and this past Sunday was no different. My husband and I took our daughters and a bunch of their friends boating. We stopped at the Baltimore Inner Harbor for a picnic lunch, after which the girls ran through the sprinkler/splash park area. While relaxing and soaking up the sun, I quickly eyed my email and saw a slew of reminders related to this week’s anniversary marking the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This milestone anniversary is, of course, of note to so many Americans. In our home, the date carries a special resonance because we are a biracial family. Read more…

Fifty Years Later: A Reflection from Rabbi Marc Saperstein

By Rabbi Marc Saperstein

On the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we are pleased to share this recollection from Rabbi Marc Saperstein.

My first active involvement in the Civil Rights Movement was on March 25, 1965: the final day of the five-day March from Selma to Montgomery, led by Martin Luther King.

I was then a third year undergraduate at Harvard, and had recently been elected as President of the Harvard-Radcliff Hillel Society. Earlier in the week I was contacted by someone at the United Ministry office, saying that clergy and student leaders from all the religious denominations at Harvard and at several other Boston area universities would by flying to Alabama on a chartered plane overnight, and that they would like me to represent Harvard Hillel. Needless to say, I was thrilled to go. Read more…

Fifty Years Later: Rabbi Richard Hirsch Reflects on the Civil Rights Movement

On the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we take great pride in the fact that the major deliberations on all the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s were held in the conference room of our Religious Action Center. The RAC housed the offices of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which was the umbrella coordinating organization of all the civil rights, civil liberties, labor, women’s groups and national religious bodies—Protestant, Catholic and Jewish—advocating the passage of the legislation.  All the leadership of these groups, beginning with Martin Luther King, Jr. participated in these meetings and were frequent visitors to our Center.

In commemoration of this historic role, we are reproducing excerpts from the memoir, “From the Hill to the Mount,” by the RAC’s founding Director, Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch:

During my years in Washington our Center dealt with a host of public concerns: among them: church-state, public housing, welfare, migrant labor, economic policy, foreign policy, civil rights, Israel and Soviet Jewry. We testified before Senate and House committees, convened conferences, organized intensive training programs for Jewish and Christian clergy, and issued publications and background papers. Read more…

Al Vorspan

Honoring 50 years of the Civil Rights Act

On Wednesday, July 2, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Reform Movement played an instrumental role in the civil rights movement including helping to draft (in the Religious Action Center’s very own Sillins Conference Room) both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which will also turn 50 next year.  Read more…

Supreme Court

One Year Later: Protecting Voting Rights After Shelby v. Holder

Today is the one-year anniversary of Shelby v. Holder, the Supreme Court’s decision that struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

Renewed by bipartisan majorities on several occasions, most recently in 2006, the Voting Rights Act long protected Americans from discrimination at the ballot box. The Shelby decision struck down Section 4(b), a provision of the bill that required states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to pre-clear potentially discriminatory voting changes with the federal Department of Justice. While some parts of the Voting Rights Act do remain in place, in the year since the Court’s decision a number of states and jurisdictions have engaged in discriminatory behaviors. Read more…

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