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Statement of Rabbi David Saperstein, Director Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Introduction of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999
March 11, 1999

"On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews, we join this broad-based coalition in strongly supporting the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and thank Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) for their leadership on this issue. The hate crimes bill that is being introduced today would amend federal law to make it easier for federal law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute cases of racial and religious violence, and would permit federal prosecution of violence motivated by prejudice against the victim's sexual orientation, gender, or disability."

"Current law does not permit federal involvement in cases involving crimes motivated by bias against the victim's sexual orientation, gender, or disability. It also erects unduly rigid jurisdictional hurdles to federal investigation and prosecution of racial, religious, and ethnic violence."

"The Hate Crimes Prevention Act is a constructive and measured response to a problem that continues to plague our nation--violence motivated by prejudice. In the Jewish tradition, we are taught that God created humans b'tselem elohim , in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). The stamp of the divine is found in the souls of all God's children. Regardless of context, violence against any person arising from apathy, insensitivity, ignorance, fear, or hatred is inconsistent with this fundamental principle, moving us ever farther away from our goal of creating a perfect world. We must oppose discrimination against all individuals thereby upholding a basic principle of the Jewish faith."

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.




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