Tag Archives: Civil Rights
Ferguson clergy protest

In Advance of the Ferguson Grand Jury, What Have We Learned?

The grand jury in the Ferguson case is expected to meet today in what could be its final session. If a decision is made, it will likely not be made public until at least Sunday because the prosecutors are expected to provide law enforcement 48 hours notice.  The FBI has warned that the decision will likely lead to violence by some individuals and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has already declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. As we approach this decision, it is important to reflect on how we can address the root problems that allowed the August 9 shooting and subsequent events to occur. The reports and articles below discuss what we can learn from Ferguson, how we can improve police and community relations and why it is important to prevent discrimination and promote diversity.

A 2012 report by the American Psychological Association (APA) called “Dual Pathways to a Better America: Preventing Discrimination and Promoting Diversity” aims to address the societal challenge of eliminating bias, prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination as well as their deleterious effects on both victims and perpetrators. A task force of experts was assembled to identify and promote interventions to counteract and prevent these harmful actions and to examine the benefits of promoting inclusion, respect, acceptance and appreciation of diversity.

A September article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains how psychologists and psychological research can help Ferguson heal. The writers explain that our nation must “commit to the complex and difficult work of change” to address the distrust between law enforcement and communities of color, militarized policing, entrenched inequalities, and racism and discrimination. This change can start with honest conversations and dialogues about race relations and the persistence of racism in America.

The public interest sector of the APA also launched a blog series about race, racism and law enforcement in communities of color. One of the posts, by Dr. Ellen Schriver, discusses the need for effective community policing with an emphasis on community relationships as a way of preventing crime and keeping communities safe.

Another post, by Dr. Tom Tyler, identifies teachable moments from the tragedy. He explains that the most important factor in whether or not the public trust the police is whether they believe the police or fairly exercising their authority. He explains that “if people see the police acting with justice, they respond with trust.”

As we prepare for the decision in this controversial case, we hope that the community and the country as a whole will work to address the underlying issues that brought about this tragedy and improve race relations and police relations across the country.

 

Camp Coleman logo

Joining the Olim Fellows for a Social Justice Weekend in Georgia

All told, I’ve spent almost a full year of my life at URJ summer camps, and over half of that year at Camp Coleman in Northeast Georgia. For many years, Camp Coleman was not only my summer home, but also one of the only places where I really felt comfortable in my own skin. So, when I was asked to come speak at the Olim Fellowship retreat there, I couldn’t say no. Read more…

Why Voting Rights Are Still Important, Even After Election Day

Voter turnout in this year’s midterm elections was the lowest voter turnout in any election cycle since World War II (when only 33.9 percent of eligible voters cast ballots). Only 36.4 percent of the voting eligible population cast ballots this year, continuing the trend of declining participation in midterm elections. Read more…

Rabbi David Saperstein and Nancy Zirkin discussing the election

Midterms 2014: What the Election Means for Jewish Social Justice

With a few days’ distance from the 2014 midterm elections, we are beginning to put the results of this election in context — for what it means for Congress, state legislatures, state laws and of course our work to advance social justice in the United States. The day after the election, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center released a statement welcoming the resounding success of three key state ballot initiatives and noting our long history of working successfully with members on both sides of the aisle to advance shared priorities. We look forward to another exciting chapter in Washington, D.C. and in the states.

On Thursday, Rachel Laser moderated a conversation between RAC Director Rabbi David Saperstein, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Executive Vice President and Director of Policy Nancy Zirkin and RAC Senior Advisor Michael Horowitz. To watch the exciting conversation, visit our Election Day resources page, or watch it here:

Read more…

Reform Movement Responds to Election Results

In response to the 2014 midterm election results, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued a statement:

In the wake of yesterday’s election results, we welcome the resounding success of three key state ballot initiatives that will enhance America’s safety and well-being. In Washington State, all gun purchases will now require a common-sense background check. Thanks to Nebraska voters, the state’s minimum wage will increase to $9 by 2016. In fact, voters approved minimum wage increases in four states nationwide, all by wide margins. And in Massachusetts, voters said “yes” to Question 4, allowing workers at companies with 11 or more employees to earn paid sick leave. In each of these states, Reform rabbis and congregants working with the Religious Action Center’s staff were key to the initiatives’ passage – offering sermons, publishing op-eds, speaking with colleagues and friends, and voting.

Read the entirety of the statement here.

To learn more about our work on economic justice issues (including paid sick days and minimum wage) and the Jewish values that underpin our advocacy and programming, be sure to visit our issue page.

The Reform Movement has a long and storied history of advocating for civil rights, from our engagement in the Civil Rights Movement, to the fact that we are intimately acquainted with the effects of bigotry. Our ancestors knew both the continuing indignities of second-class citizenship and the constant fear of xenophobic violence. Our history teaches us that discrimination against any members of a community threatens the security of the entire community. Learn more about our work on civil rights, including election reform and voting rights.

Also, don’t forget to join our post-election briefing today, November 6, at 1:30 p.m. as our panel will discuss different perspectives on the prospects for critical human and civil rights issues in the upcoming Congress. Join in live here.

Ferguson clergy protest

The Continuing Fight for Justice in Ferguson

Though the media coverage may have slowed, protests in Ferguson are still ongoing. The challenges of racial divides and mistrust that afflict communities across the U.S. are a tragic emblem of how much work remains to be done to overcome divisions rooted in our nation’s history and the persistence of racial and ethnic disparities. Noting the need to address these issues, many organizations have joined together to continue hosting marches, events and panels to build momentum. A few weeks ago, a number of national and local organizations partnered to host a Weekend of Resistance.  Read more…

Maurice Eisendrath and MLK March

Channeling Abraham As We Fight for Civil Rights

Many members of the RAC staff are currently in Atlanta at the fall meeting of the Commission on Social Action. Throughout the meeting, the Commission is working on important social justice issues, while also learning about the abundant civil rights history of Atlanta and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. During yesterday morning’s opening plenary session, I delivered a d’var Torah connecting our work to Jewish tradition and the civil rights movement. An abbreviated version of the d’var is here:

Almost as soon as the CCAR conference began in June of 1964, the presiding rabbi stepped forward with an urgent telegram from Martin Luther King Jr. King needed rabbis to take part in demonstrations against the segregated city of St. Augustine, Florida and he needed them immediately. The next morning, 16 Rabbis and then leader of the CSA Al Vorspan were at the airport, answering King’s call.

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A picture of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act

Commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

By Michael Lieberman

This month we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), the most important, comprehensive, and inclusive federal hate crime enforcement law passed in the past 40 years.  The Anti-Defamation League and the Religious Action Center played critical roles helping to lead the very broad coalition of civil rights, religious, educational, professional, law enforcement, and civic organizations that advocated for the HCPA for more than a dozen years.

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