Tag Archives: Civil Rights
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:

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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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I "Ohio" Voting stickers

Suppressive SCOTUS Decision Reminds Us to Continue to Protect the Right to Vote

With only 16 hours left before early voting was set to begin in Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to eliminate the first week of the state’s 35-day early voting period last Monday. The decision will restrict voters’ access to the polls by eliminating the only week in Ohio’s early voting period that allows citizens to register and vote on the same day. That week is referred to as the “Golden Week” and civil rights groups have said that Sunday and the evening hours are most important to black and low-income voters and the homeless, many of whom do not have the flexibility in their jobs or daily lives to vote during business hours. Read more…

NFTY students marching for civil rights

Join the RAC at NFTY Convention in Atlanta

We need only reach back into our ancient Jewish texts to know that throughout our history, it is the youth that carry hope for a promising future:  “Your old shall dream dreams, and your youth shall see visions” (Joel 3:1) This February the RAC hopes to translate those visions into action at the Social Justice Advocacy Seminar at 2015 NFTY Convention in Atlanta.

The greatest social change in modern Jewish history was brought about by the youth–the creation of the State of Israel.  Zionist youth movements made aliyah in droves in the 1920s to realize a dream of progress, hope and justice.  These young pioneers built the infrastructure of the country: they drained the swamps, built the kibbutzim and created the Haganah and Palmach.

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Vote signs, American flags

The Fight for Free and Fair Elections

Today is National Voter Registration Day. Over the course of the day, volunteers, celebrities, and organizations across the country will hit the streets in a coordinated effort to educate and register eligible voters. The goal of the day is to reach tens of thousands of voters who might not otherwise get the information they need. In 2008, six million Americans didn’t vote due to a missed registration deadline or lack of information on how to register. National Voter Registration Day hopes to put political differences aside and celebrate democracy, unifying the American people. Read more…

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