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Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Welcomes Reintroduction of the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act

Contact: Alexis Rice or Sari Laufer, (202) 387-2800

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2001 - In response to today's reintroduction of the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Representatives Richard Gephardt (D-MO), John Conyers (D-MI), and Connie Morella (R-MD), Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

    On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing the 1.5 million Reform Jews across North America, I want to thank Senators Edward Kennedy, Gordon Smith, and Arlen Specter and Representatives Richard Gephardt, John Conyers, and Connie Morella for their leadership on this issue, and express our support for this important legislation. Along with the rest of the broad based coalition of law enforcement, civil rights, and religious groups in support of this legislation, we recognize the crucial nature of this legislation, which 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.

    This important legislation speaks to our faith and to our history. Too often, we have been the victims of terrible violence because of who we are and what we believe. Our history has taught us too well the danger of bias-motivated violence, and what happens when a society stands idle in its face. But our tradition teaches the same thing. Our Torah instructs us that "You may not stand idly by when your neighbor's blood is being shed" (Leviticus 19:16). In addition, Jewish tradition reminds us time and again that "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." As Jews, we believe that God created all 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. Every human being is our neighbor, and we must love and treat them all equally, as we are commanded by our tradition. 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.

    Hate violence continues to take its tragic toll in America. And while we understand that no legislation can erase the scourge of bias-related crime from our society, we support the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act with the belief that it would significantly enhance the government's ability to prosecute those who perpetrate the crimes and help prevent them from occurring in the future.

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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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