Saperstein and Reform Movement Mourn the Loss of Sen. Ted Kennedy
Saperstein: “Sen. Kennedy’s guidance over the years has been indispensable to our work, and my personal friendship with him was one of the great blessings of my life.”
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WASHINGTON, D.C., August 26, 2009 – In response to the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
Today we mourn the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. For nearly half a century, Sen. Kennedy was the heart of the U.S. Senate. As a champion of the poor, the ill, the downtrodden, the very old and the very young, Sen. Kennedy’s unwavering passion for and dedication to imbuing the laws of the United States with justice and equality truly embodied the essence of social justice that the Reform Jewish Movement values.
Throughout his years in office, Sen. Kennedy played a key role in passing legislation that has bettered the lives of millions of Americans, championing such bills as the Voting Rights Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (one of the most important religious liberty bills in American history), the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Mental Health Parity Act, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and countless others, almost all strongly supported by American Jewry. Few legislators, if any, have left behind such a rich legacy.
Sen. Kennedy was a devoted supporter of Israel and Soviet Jewry and a close ally of the American Jewish community and of the Reform Jewish community in particular, often partnering on social justice efforts with American Jewish organizations and leaders. Sen. Kennedy was elected in 1962, the same year the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism opened its doors as a voice of social justice in the nation’s capital, thus beginning a long friendship with the Reform Movement and our leaders. Sen. Kennedy’s guidance over the years has been indispensable to our work, and my personal friendship with him was one of the great blessings of my life.
Sen. Kennedy told us at the end of his Presidential campaign in 1980, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream never dies.” Let us take that as our charge, as the best way to honor the memory of this remarkable champion.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.