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Reform Jewish Leader Urges House Members to Support Resolution Condemning Hate Crimes

Contact: Barbara Weinstein or Becca Nagorsky 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2003 - In a letter today, Robert Heller, Chairperson, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism urged Representatives to support Hate Crimes legislation by supporting H.Res. 234, noting, "Judaism consistently teaches the importance of tolerance and the acceptance of others, even those different from ourselves. It is in this spirit that we support H.Res. 234 and condemn bias-motivated crimes against members of the Arab, Muslim, South Asian-American, and Sikh communities."

The complete letter follows:

Dear Representatives:

On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose over 900 congregations encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), representing 1800 Reform rabbis, I write to express support for H.Res. 234 which condemns bigotry and violence against Arab-Americans, Muslim-Americans, South Asian-Americans, and Sikh-Americans and calls upon federal and local law enforcement to prosecute such crimes vigorously.

The Senate companion to H.Res. 234, S. Res. 133, passed by unanimous consent on May 22. We urge you to support this legislation so that it may pass in the House as well and send the message that Congress is unambiguously opposed to intolerance and violence targeted at Arab-Americans, Muslim-Americans, South Asian-Americans, and Sikh-Americans.

Hate crimes against members of these communities rose dramatically in the aftermath of September 11th and spiked again when the U.S. began military operations in Iraq. According to FBI reports, the incidence of hate crimes against Muslims rose 1600% from 2000 to 2001. Just three weeks ago, on June 25, Saurabh Bhalerao, a Hindu graduate student in Boston was robbed, beaten, burned with cigarettes, stuffed in a trunk and stabbed twice before being dumped along a road. Suspects in the case mistook Bhalerao for a Muslim and allegedly told him to “go back to Iraq” during the assault.

Jewish tradition is emphatic on its condemnation of hate against others, regardless of ethnicity or religion. In the Holiness Code, in Leviticus, we are commanded both that “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman, but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself” (Leviticus 19:17-18). Judaism consistently teaches the importance of tolerance and the acceptance of others, even those different from ourselves. It is in this spirit that we support H.Res. 234 and condemn bias-motivated crimes against members of the Arab, Muslim, South Asian-American, and Sikh communities.

We take these commandments of the Holiness Code seriously and urge you to join the Senate in condemning bigotry and violence against Arab-Americans, Muslim-Americans, South Asian-Americans, and Sikh-Americans. For more information, or to cosponsor, please contact Josh Brown with Representative Issa at 5-3906 or Newsha Moraveji Dau with Representative Kaptur at 5-4146.

Sincerely,
/s/
Robert Heller
Chairperson, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .



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