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Racial Justice and Jewish Values

Racial Justice and Jewish Values

In the Torah, Jews are taught to accept others, without prejudice or bias. The Torah states "You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman, but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the Eternal" (Leviticus 19: 17-18).

In the Talmud, we learn that all people are descendants from a single person so that no person can say, "my ancestor is greater than yours." God created humanity from the four corners of the earth - yellow clay, and white sand, black loam and red soil. Therefore, the earth can declare to no part of humanity that it does not belong here, that this soil is not their rightful home.

Judaism also teaches the importance of working with others in the community to achieve social justice. We are taught that "in a city where there are both Jews and Gentile, the collectors of alms collect from both Jews and Gentiles; they feed the poor of both, visit the sick of both; bury both and restore the lost goods of both, for the sake of peace" (Yerushalmi Talmud, Tractate Demai). 

REFORM MOVEMENT RESOLUTIONS

Racial Justice and Black-Jewish Relations

The history of cooperation between the Jewish communities pre-dates the Civil Rights Movement. Despite the media's portrayal of the communities acrimony, this cooperation continues. The RAC continues to work on significant civil rights legislation and other issues of concern to both the African-American and Jewish communities.

In the past few decades the perception that this partnership no longer exists, that it is an historical artifact, has permeated American popular culture. However, the RAC has been at the center of more events in the name of Black-Jewish relations than almost any other issue. Although there is always the chance of problems in the interactions between individuals in the two communities, cooperation exists at the local and national level on all issues that have an impact, directly and/or indirectly, on black Americans and Jews. The two communities work together in leading the fight on several issues, including welfare, economic justice, affirmative action, reproductive rights and gay/lesbian issues.

Through funding from the Marjorie Kovler Institute for Black-Jewish Relations, the Union of Reform Judaism and the NAACP have worked together to develop resources to assist those working to develop greater understanding between Jews and African Americans, including The Common Road to Justice: A Programming Manual for Blacks and Jews and The Common Road to Freedom: A Passover Haggadah. Both items are available from the Religious Action Center. In addition, the RAC gives the Civil Rights Leadership Award every other year in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Day.

Recently, the Union for Reform Judaism has launched a movement-wide campaign on racial justice. Structured around the three "R's" - reflect, relate and reform - the campaign aims to increase education about racial diversity and injustice in the United States and within Reform Jewish congregations, to foster stronger community relationships across lines of race and to promote advocacy on behalf of policies that mitigate racial inequality.

Resolutions on Racial Justice Black-Jewish Relations 

The Union and the CCAR have both passed resolutions in support of racial justice and in the interest of improving Black-Jewish Relations.

Union of Reform Judaism

CCAR

Native-American Issues & Jewish Relations

The Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Commission on Social Action have a number of resolutions on Native American issues, specifically focusing on religious rights, civil rights, and tribal sovereignty.

Union for Reform Judaism

  • Resolution on First Nations (2013)
  • Native American Indians (1977)
    As Jews we understand and sympathize with the suffering of American Indians, and their forced expulsion from their homeland. We further are outraged and impelled to reverse the sharp contrasts that exist between the Native American community and the national average. "According to the governments own statistics, American Indians suffer from eight times the rate of tuberculosis; an infant mortality rate 20 percent greater; a life expectancy seven years less; and a suicide rate three times greater."

CCAR

  • Protection of Native American Remains (1990)
    This resolution is concerned with respecting the sanctity of Native American property, with particular regard to burial sites. Therefore, the CCAR calls on its members to "work on both the state and federal levels to help secure legislation that will protect unmarked burial sites and criminalize the traffic in human remains and burial goods legally obtained.
  • American Indians (1982)
    Outlines the struggles and injustices continually suffered by Native Americans. The CCAR urges its members to "support Native American Indians in their struggle to attain the human and political rights so long denied them."
  • American Indians and Equal Opportunity (1979)
    Calls for Native Americans to be treated justly and fairly and for the U.S. government to hold true to its Native American directed promises. According to the CCAR, "we call upon the President and the Congress of the United States to live up to the moral and ethical responsibility of the people of the United States to honor the promises of the treaties and agreements entered into with the native peoples of this country."

Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism

  • Religious Rights of Native Americans (1992)
    In recent years, Native Americans have faced significant obstacles to exercising their religious rights. They are finding it difficult to conduct ceremonies without interference from non-Native Americans when they go into the mountains or to remote lakes and buttes. Federal agencies have begun to restrict Native American access to sacred sites by establishing increasingly narrow rules and regulations for managing public funds.

Latino-Jewish Relations from the Central Conference of American Rabbis

Asian-Jewish Relations

  • Reparations to American Citizens of Japanese Descent (1981): The Union of Reform Judaism called upon Congress "to assert its moral and constitutional responsibilities to legislate reasonable reparations for the Japanese-Americans" who were forced to relocate to internment camps.
  • On the Growing Importance of the Hispanic and Asian Communities in the United States (1987): calls for Jewish outreach to and interaction with Asian communities on areas of mutual concern.
  • Religious Persecution In China (2001): The Union of Reform Judaism called upon the government of China to “End all persecution, including that of members of religious and ethnic minorities.”
  • In 2003, the Commission on Social Action passed a resolution on North Korea, encouraging the U.S. government to “engage promptly in diplomacy and negotiations with North Korea to attempt to resolve differences.”