Tag Archives: Interfaith
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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many religious symbols

Religious Freedom Isn’t Just About the Freedom of Belief

New data analysis by the Weekly Number shows that throughout the world, the lack of religious freedom is linked to gender inequality.  Extremist ideologies are often a contributing factor to a dearth of religious freedom and the analysis shows that when there is a lack of respect for a diversity of religious beliefs, gender inequality often results. Read more…

Peoples Climate March

Environmental Stewardship on the Eve of Rosh Hashanah: The People’s Climate March

Yesterday I was one of over 310,000 people to march across Manhattan the weekend before the UN Climate Summit with the People’s Climate March. Together, we asked our leaders both domestically and internationally to support a strong, global commitment to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the most vulnerable communities worldwide from the devastating effects of climate change. The march included a broad swath of people from environmental, labor, scientific and faith communities. In the hours leading up to the March, Reform Jews stood side by side with Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, Unitarians, Southern Baptists, seekers and pagans for an interfaith prayer service. On a stage propped up in front of an inflatable mosque and an interfaith arc, we watched Rabbi Arthur Waskow give a benediction, Josh Nelson and Neshama Carlebach lead a niggun, monks, preachers, imams and priests all provide blessing in their traditions for the march, the UN Summit leaders, and the earth.

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NYC UN Climate Summit

UN Summit a Meaningful Opportunity to Impact Climate Change 

In advance of the UN Climate Summit beginning tomorrow, Barbara Weinstein, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Director of the Commission on Social Action, issued the following statement:

“We are pleased to join with others in the environmental, scientific and faith communities in urging our domestic and international leaders this week to make a strong commitment to curbing climate change and its effects. This past weekend, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis were proud to partner with HUC-JIR and Reform congregants and congregations from the greater New York area and beyond to be part of the 300,000-plus who participated in the People’s Climate March to express our shared commitment to achieving a solution to the current climate crisis.

As people of faith, blessed to live in a nation with the resources and ability to be a climate leader, we have a moral obligation to address the devastation of climate change that is already wreaking havoc on the air we breathe, water we drink and earth that sustains us. Yet only with a concerted international commitment to tackling this challenge can we ensure that we pass on a healthy earth as we pass on our sacred traditions l’dor v’dor, from one generation to the next. We must act in particular for the sake of the most vulnerable – the sick, children, the elderly and others living in communities ill-equipped to respond to the increasing instances of flooding, drought, food shortages, and disease associated with climate change.

We look forward to this week’s summit renewing the global commitment to stemming climate change and to meaningful engagement from individuals, corporations, communities, and nations.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, Dutch Ambassador Bekink at the ceremony for Anne Frank Award

Rabbi David Saperstein Honored with Inaugural Anne Frank Award

On Wednesday, September 17, in a ceremony held in the Member’s Room of the Library of Congress, attended by ambassadors, Members of Congress, religious leaders, and others, Ambassador Rudolf Bekink of the Netherlands presented Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, with the inaugural Anne Frank Award for Human Dignity and Tolerance. The honor acknowledges those who have worked to “confront intolerance, anti-Semitism, racism, and discrimination while upholding freedom and equal rights.”

“The Netherlands and the United States have been friends for more than 400 years, in part because both our nations share a respect for justice and human rights,” Ambassador Bekink said after the ceremony. “Rabbi Saperstein has dedicated his life to confronting intolerance and anti-Semitism, upholding human rights, and helping people of different backgrounds understand each other. I can think of no one better qualified to receive the inaugural Anne Frank Award for Human Dignity and Tolerance.”

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many religious symbols

A Promising Perspective on Religious Tolerance in the Middle East

The Jewish people have long been active in lifting up the voices of minorities and fighting for their rights and protection. Whether in the 1960s when Reform Jews supported and participated in the Civil Rights Movement or as recently as last month when the president and chief executive of the CCAR issued a statement denouncing the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, the Reform Movement has consistently cherished opportunities to work with and support other religious, racial, or ethnic communities. With ISIS’s influence spreading in the Middle East and concern growing in the international community, one might be tempted to assume that the region is hostile to religious freedom and diversity — the crisis of the Yazidi people has been particularly alarming. Fortunately, an article from Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs provides encouraging data about religious tolerance in the Arab World that is encouraging to all who value religious freedom. Read more…

many religious symbols

Concern for Religious Minorities Around the World

On Tuesday, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress published this Op-Ed in the New York Times, callingfor a collective voice standing in defense of the Christian minority being persecuted for their religious beliefs in Iraq and the Middle East.

He writes, “In a speech before thousands of Christians in Budapest in June, I made a solemn promise that just as I will not be silent in the face of the growing threat of anti-Semitism in Europe and in the Middle East, I will not be indifferent to Christian suffering. Historically, it has almost always been the other way around: Jews have all too often been the persecuted minority. But Israel has been among the first countries to aid Christians in South Sudan. Christians can openly practice their religion in Israel, unlike in much of the Middle East.”

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