Tag Archives: Civil Rights

Democracy Restoration Act Reintroduced

Just weeks after Attorney General Holder highlighted the issue of felon disenfranchisement, members of Congress have introduced the Democracy Restoration Act, which would restore voting rights in federal elections to 4.4 million Americans who are out of prison and living in the community. Read more…

Lobbying for DC Voting Rights

Last Friday, as the URJ’s representative in the DC Voting Rights Coalition, I participated in the DC Vote Annual Lobby Day. Joining with other organizations in the coalition, we took the Hill by storm—in total, representatives from the coalition conducted dozens of meetings with House and Senate staffers on this issue.

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At Passover, Reflecting on the Relationship Between Blacks and Jews

As two communities that have historically struggled for freedom side by side and share a common history of slavery and oppression, it is appropriate that we reflect upon the relationship between American Jews and African Americans during this Passover season.

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Responding to the Court: Upholding Voting Rights

During a week of important election reform developments coming from the Supreme Court, it is worth highlighting the work of civil rights advocates responding to a similar Court decision, Shelby v. Holder, which struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Since that decision was handed down last June, members of the civil rights community have been hard at work developing a bill that would ensure access to the ballot box for all Americans.

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Reflections on the Civil Rights Pilgrimage

By Rabbi Fred Guttman

In the beginning of March, I, along with some thirty Congressmen and Senators, was privileged to be a participant in the Congressional Faith and Politics Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Mississippi and Alabama. Beginning in Jackson Mississippi, we commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the “Freedom Summer,” a summer when more than 900 Caucasians joined African Americans from all over the United States to come to Mississippi and Alabama in order to register African American voters. The Pilgrimage would end in Selma Alabama with a recreation of the famous voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. This march took place forty nine years ago.

In Jackson, we went to the home of the assassinated civil rights hero, Medgar Evers, and heard remembrance from his widow, Myrlie. On the trip, I also met David Goodman, whose brother Andrew was killed in 1964 along with another Jew, Michael Schwerner and an African American, James Earl Chaney. In the chapel at Tougaloo College, I chanted the El Male Rachameem prayer for the four murdered activists which was quite a moving experience! Read more…

This Passover, Let Us Commit to Ending Modern-Day Slavery

In typical Jewish fashion, Passover is a holiday centered on the celebration of our freedom while also ensuring that we do not forget the bitterness of slavery. We gather our friends and family for a meal, but we cut out chametz and kitniyot, requiring us to get creative with matzah – but honestly, matzah is not-zah tasty. Steeped in family tradition, Passover is also a unifying holiday for many Jews. There is something powerful beyond words to know that as you sit down to a seder with your family and friends, Jews across the world are doing the same: celebrating, remembering, retelling and commemorating.

We are a people for whom the story of slavery and exodus is central to our self-understanding. And that is extraordinarily powerful—and humbling. I was so deeply moved when I first heard this story about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Reform Rabbi Israel “Si” Dresner: Dr. King was invited to a seder for the first time, and was moved by what he heard and saw. Dr. King told Rabbi Dresner that he hoped African-Americans would similarly honor their ancestors’ story of slavery: “I hope we will be as proud as you are of what our slave ancestors endured and their struggle for freedom.”

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Where’s ENDA?

“In some states, employers can fire you for who you are or who you love, it’s close to barbaric…Pass ENDA now. Not tomorrow. Now.” – Vice President Biden

Remember this past November when all we were talking about was the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)? Let me refresh your memory: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a long overdue, common-sense piece of legislation that would extend federal workplace protection to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community historically passed the Senate with a 64-32 vote. This is the furthest the bill has ever come, even though it has been introduced in every Congress (with the exception of the 109th) since 1994.

But that was November…where’s ENDA now? Read more…

Next Year, May We All Be Free

This year we are slaves. Next year, may we all be free.” (Haggadah, “Ha Lachma Anya”)

When I was little, I would practice the Four Questions for hours on end before the Seder began, ensuring that I pronounced every Hebrew word correctly and hit every musical note. When I finally would recite them shortly after the Seder began, I was so nervous I could barely think about anything else. Afterwards my family would applaud and tell me how good a job I had done, and I would be so excited and relieved that I usually paid little attention the next part of the service. But this part, though I did not know it at the time, was the crucial answer to my four questions: Read more…

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