Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Welcomes Passage of Hate Crimes Legislation
Saperstein: "The Senate has sent a clear message: Our diversity is our nation's greatest asset. Violent hate crimes are divisive and destructive — they will not be tolerated in any community.."
Contact: Raanan Weintraub, (202) 387-2800
WASHINGTONJune 20, 2000 — This afternoon the Senate passed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, renamed the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Act. In response to the Senate's bipartisan vote to pass this key legislation which addresses the scourge of violent hate crimes, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism issued the following statement:
The passage of the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act is an appropriate and meaningful tribute to the victims of hate crimes and their families. This legislation brings us closer to the ideal of all Americans, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or ability, living with a greater sense of security. The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act is not simply feel-good legislation. It will make a real difference to Americans whose safety is continually threatened because of their identity. This is an important step in healing the wounds hate crimes have inflicted in our communities.
As Jews, we know all too well what it is to be the victims of group hatred, of ethnic discrimination, of violence. Our history teaches us that to act against one is to act against all. To hurt one is to hurt all. To harm one is to harm all. And to stand with, defend, and protect one, is to protect all. Informed by our history, inspired by all who resist intolerance, and driven by our faith that teaches that every human being is created b'tselem elohim, in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Regardless of context, violence against any person, and against any group, 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 commend Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Gordon Smith (R-OR), Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) for their leadership. We look forward to working with Members of the House for speedy passage of this necessary legislation.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, representing its 895 congregations across North America, whose membership includes 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the 1700 rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.