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Reform Jewish Movement Hails Senate Adoption of Anti-Hate Crimes Measure

Contact:Alexis Rice or Brian Stoller
202.387.2800

Pelavin: Legislation 'will make America a stronger, safer, and more just nation for all its citizens'

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2004 - In response to today's Senate adoption of an amendment adding the provisions of the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act to the Fiscal Year 2005 Defense authorization bill, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism issued the following statement:

Today, we applaud the U.S. Senate for approving an amendment to the FY 2005 Department of Defense authorization bill designed to strengthen protections for victims of hate crimes. The amendment, authored by Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA), would enhance the federal government's ability to prosecute criminals who commit acts of violence or intimidation against individuals because of the victim's gender, disability, or sexual orientation.

The Torah teaches us in Leviticus 19:17 that "You shall not hate another in your heart." As Jews, we seek to live by this teaching by fighting against hate crimes committed against people because of who they are. Hate crimes are more than mere acts of hatred; they are more than murders, beatings, and assaults. Hate crimes are a betrayal of the promise of America. They diminish all of us and erode our national well-being. Those who commit hate crimes do so fully intending to tear at the too-often frayed threads of diversity that bind us together and make us strong. We are commanded to "not stand idly by when your neighbor's blood is being shed" (Leviticus 19:16), and we cannot stand idly by while hate crimes committed against federally unprotected victims occur rampantly throughout our country.

Today's Senate vote is an important step in the ongoing effort to pursue justice for victims of hate crimes. The Smith-Kennedy amendment will make America a stronger, safer, and more just nation for all its citizens. We call on lawmakers to retain this crucial anti-hate crimes measure in the final version of the Defense authorization bill.

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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(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis .



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