What role have Jews historically played in the civil rights movement?
Jews in the United States have a long and proud history of advocating on the behalf of others. Our own history has taught us about the importance of respecting the fundamental rights of all people.
In particular, Jews have played an important role in championing the right of African-Americans. Kivie Kaplan, a vice-chairman of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the Union for Reform Judaism), served as the national president of the NAACP from 1966 to 1975. Jews made up half of the young people who participated in the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964. Reform Jewish leaders were arrested with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964 after a challenge to racial segregation in public accommodations. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were drafted in the conference room of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, under the aegis of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which for decades was located in the same building.
Jewish communities today continue to work on behalf of the civil rights, not only of people of color, but of women, people with disabilities and those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.