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Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Applauds House Step Toward Passing Hate Crimes Legislation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jeff Mandell or Sari Laufer
(202) 387-2800

Pelavin: "By joining the Senate in bipartisan support of enhanced federal hate crimes legislation, the House has sent a message that hate crimes have caused too much pain in our nation, have torn apart too many communities, and have taken from us too many of our citizens. No longer will perpetrators of violence born of intolerance elude justice."

WASHINGTON, September 13, 2000 - Reacting to the House of Representatives' approval of a procedural motion promoting passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, renamed the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement.

The House vote followed drawn-out procedural maneuvering, in which an alternative procedural motion that would have derailed enhanced federal hate crimes legislation was defeated. Then, the key procedural motion instructing members of the conference committee on the Department of Defense Authorization bill to issue a report including the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act as an amendment to the bill was passed.

Mr. Pelavin's complete statement follows:

Today, we commend the House of Representatives for its affirmative vote on a procedural motion that promotes the passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, renamed the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, as part of the Department of Defense Authorization bill. And today we celebrate the House's decision to reaffirm the notion that all Americans are deserving of protection from the scourge of bias-motivated violence. No longer can the pernicious voices of hate in our nation profit from the silence of our Congress, because for the first time ever, both the House and the Senate have affirmed the need for a strong federal hate crimes statute protecting a broad range of Americans.

As Jews, we cherish the biblical injunction found in Leviticus 19:17: "You shall not hate your kinsman in your heart," and we seek to give life to that teaching by fighting against hate crimes directed against people because of who they are. Hate crimes diminish all of us. Hate crimes are more than mere acts of violence. They are more than murders, beatings, and assaults. They are a betrayal of the promise of America. They erode our national well-being. Those who commit these crimes do so fully intending to tear at the too-often frayed threads of diversity that bind us together and make us strong. They seek to divide and conquer. They seek to tear us apart from within, pitting American against American, fomenting violence and civil discord.

By joining the Senate in bipartisan support of enhanced federal hate crimes legislation, the House has sent a message that hate crimes have caused too much pain in our nation, have torn apart too many communities, and have taken from us too many of our citizens. No longer will perpetrators of violence born of intolerance elude justice. Instead, today we can all join together in recognition of legislation that will make America a stronger, better, safer nation for all citizens.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.



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