Civil Rights & Voting Rights

Description

The Torah teaches to accept others without prejudice and to work with others to achieve social justice. Since the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Jewish community has continued its support of civil rights laws addressing systemic discrimination in voting, housing, and employment against not only women and people of color but also the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities.

Learn About the RAC and the Civil Rights Movement

Engage Your Congregation

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The Reform Movement's Racial Justice Campaign

Join the leaders of the Reform Movement as we examine and address our own behaviors, practices, and policies, through the lens of racial equity, diversity, and inclusion (REDI) and outwardly to pursue targeted, strategic advocacy that could change laws and policies that impact our society.

 

Why We Care about Civil Rights & Voting Rights

The Sage Hillel taught "Al tifros min hatzibur, Do not separate yourself from the community" (Pirke Avot 2:5). Moreover, it is our responsibility to play an active role in our community and choosing its leaders.

Rabbi Yitzhak taught that "A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted" (Babylonian Talmud Berachot 55a). Rabbi Yitzhak further explained that in the Torah, Bezalel could be chosen to build the Tabernacle only with the community's approval. This deeply embedded ethic of political participation has guided Jews to enthusiastically participate in the American electoral process.

Jews played an active role in the dramatic civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, a movement that ultimately granted citizens of color unfettered access to the franchise. Indeed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was partially drafted in the conference room of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, under the aegis of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Given our longstanding commitment to the civil rights struggle, ongoing voter suppression and disenfranchisement, which disproportionately impacts Voters of Color. It is our duty to ensure all voters can safely and freely cast our ballots so that every voice is heard and our elections reflect the will of the people. Only through national standards for voting access can we make the promise of democracy real for us all.

 As Reform Jews, we must heed the teachings of our tradition that speak to the dangers of mixing money and politics and recognize the distorting effect that money can have on a leader’s ability to govern fairly. We are reminded of this teaching from Deuteronomy 16:19, "You shall not judge unfairly: you shall know no partiality; you shall not take gifts, for gifts blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just."  We are commanded to stand up for the widow, the poor, the orphan and the stranger. In a system that allows for disproportionate power of money, it is these groups who are ignored and who suffer the most. 

Take Action

Urge Congress to enact policing reforms

George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Dreasjon “Sean” Reed are just some of the latest victims of the nation’s long history of brutality against People of Color, and particularly Black men. Urge your members of Congress to support comprehensive policing reforms in the 117th Congress.

Urge Congress to Restore Voting Rights

On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act. In the aftermath of the Court’s misguided decision, many states have tested the extent to which they can legally limit citizens’ access to the ballot box by introducing--and in many cases passing--restrictive voting laws

Related Issues

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Signs that say "restore voting rights"

Voting Rights

Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of democracy. However, for the duration of its history, the United States has been plagued by disenfranchisement and voter suppression.

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Reparations

Systemic racial oppression in the United States began four hundred years ago with the institution of slavery and it was inextricably intertwined with the development of the American economy and of the nation overall. 

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Finance, Facilities and Administration

Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign finance refers to fundraising and spending involved in candidates’ run for office. These campaigns cost a great deal of money; from travel expenses to advertisements and compensation of staff, enormous financial burdens come with running for office.

What's New

How the Legacy of Rosa Parks Echoes in the Present

February 4, 2022
Today, the anniversary of Rosa Parks’s birthday, is the ideal time to revisit her life and legacy for the inspiration and wisdom they provide. Many Americans remember Rosa Parks as the tired seamstress who refused to move to the back of a bus, but Rosa Parks is much more than that story: though she did not identify as Jewish, her life reflected a commitment that we might identify as tikkun olam – repairing what is broken in our world. Here are three key insights from Rosa Parks’ life we can bear in mind as Black History Month begins.

"Unite the Right" Organizers Lose Big in Court

December 13, 2021
Amy Spitalnick is the executive director of Integrity First for America (IFA), the civil rights nonprofit behind Sines v. Kessler - the successful federal lawsuit against the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and hate groups responsible for the violent "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. I sat down with Amy, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, to get her views on the significance of this lawsuit.

Related Press Releases

RAC Email Sign Up

Learn more about the RAC's key issues and get involved by signing up for the legislative updates newsletter.

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Reform Judaism's Resolutions on Civil Rights and Voting Rights

Learn more about the position of the Reform Movement on these key issues, and read the formal resolutions by URJ and CCAR.

View URJ Resolutions View Resolutions From Our Partners

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Contact our Legislative Assistants

For more information on this issue, contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Israel Harris.