Tag Archives: Civil Rights

Time for a Hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act

The closer we get to election season, the more important the swift passage of the Voting Rights Amendment Act becomes.. As I’ve writtenbefore, the Voting Rights Amendment Act is a bipartisan response to the Supreme Court’s calamitous decision in Shelby v. Holder last year, which struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. Read more…

Fran Lamarre-Cham of Hillcrest with her daughter, Maia Cham, 8, and son, Mason Cham, 10, attend a vigil in support of public schools at the East Ramapo Central School District administration building in Spring Valley before a scheduled Board of Education meeting May 26, 2010.

NY Community Comes Together to Fight for Justice in Local School District

Take Action:  Urge Governor Cuomo to intervene in the East Ramapo Central School District.

In Rockland County, New York, just northwest of New York City, a large community of Haredi Jews live in the town of Monsey. While the vast majority of the Haredi community send their children to private yeshivas, they also control a majority of seats on the public school board for the East Ramapo Central School District. In this capacity, the school board oversees the major decisions for district’s students, 90% of who are students of color and not members of the Haredi community. While there are no legal concerns with this situation, many of the school board’s decisions over the past few years have called their motives into question. Read more…

Rabbi Everett Gendler

A Heavenly Earth Day

By Rabbi Everett Gendler

Thirty six years ago, when Jimmy Carter was president, he established a number of regional Solar Energy Centers to encourage the use of sun-fueled electricity.  Attracted to the idea of plugging our temple Eternal Light directly into the sun, I and several members of Temple Emanuel, Lowell, MA, investigated the feasibility of converting our Ner Tamid to solar power.

Its symbolic appropriateness is evident.  Non-polluting, not in danger of imminent depletion, it seemed perfectly suited as a pure symbol of illumination and eternity.  We obtained two solar panels, storage batteries for hours of darkness and periods of heavy cloud cover, and at the dark of the year, during Hanukkah, 1978, we celebrated its installation.  People appreciated its symbolic value, and in December, 1991, we celebrated its Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

During my remaining years as rabbi of the temple, the light ever so gently kept nudging me:  Why only a symbol?  Why not real production of more usable electricity for your temple?  The question was not easily answered.  Succeeding U. S. administrations did not maintain the solar energy centers, and the necessary technical information was hard to obtain.  Even though the Light was included in a Union of Concerned Scientists-Real Goods book, Renewables Are Ready, published in 1995, by then I was retiring from the temple, and so it remained symbolic, not pragmatic. Read more…

Affirmative Action at the Court

Last week, the Supreme Court decided Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, ruling that Michigan voters could choose to prohibit sex- and race-based preferences in higher education admissions. The decision was disappointing to many civil rights advocates, but given the scope of the ruling does not represent the end of affirmative action. Read more…

Oklahoma Botches Execution: What’s Going On?

Last night, the state of Oklahoma effectively tortured one of its prisoners to death, after weeks of legal back-and-forth between the state’s courts about the legality of the execution. Clayton Lockett’s execution was halted after it was clear that the lethal injection procedure was botched, but he suffered significantly and ultimately died as a result of the botched procedure.

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Faith Leaders Applaud Obama’s Expanded Use of Clemency

Last week, the Obama Administration announced a significant initiative to expand eligibility for clemency for some offenders. The move was hailed by civil rights groups and faith organizations, who have long been concerned about the President’s record on clemency and have pushed for smart, fair criminal justice reform. Read more…

Thou Shalt Not Take Vengeance: Advocating for Sentencing Reform

In this week’s parsha we read, “Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:19). It is reasonable and necessary to punish crime, in the interest of public safety. But for some offenders—especially drug offenders—our current laws disproportionately punish low-level offenders without improving public safety.

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Supreme Court

Supreme Court Happenings

In light of recent Supreme Court decisions, and more opinions expected to come down this morning, it feels like an appropriate time to recap what the nine justices have been working and opining on.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court handed down a decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, upholding a constitutional ban on affirmative action in public university admissions in Michigan 6-2 (Justice Kagan recused herself). Interestingly, Justice Stephen Breyer concurred with the conservative wing of the Court. The New York Times notes that “justices in the majority, with varying degrees of vehemence, said that policies affecting minorities that do not involve intentional discrimination should ordinarily be decided at the ballot box rather than in the courtroom.”

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