Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Calls for House Action on Hate Crimes Legislation
Pelavin: "This 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."
WASHINGTON July 20, 2000 — Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism today issued the following statement at a press conference where families of hate crimes victims rallied with advocates to launch a web-based campaign aimed at securing House passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act:
The time has come, in fact the time is long overdue, for the House of Representatives to move forward on the passage of hate crimes legislation. Last month's Senate passage of the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act was an appropriate and meaningful tribute to the victims of hate crimes and their families. This is not simply feel-good legislation. The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act 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.
That is why we are proud to be here today, in solidarity with this impressive coalition and in support of victims of hate crimes and their families, and to commit ourselves anew to pressing for this much-needed legislation. Under current law, the government must prove that the crime occurred because of a person's membership in a designated group and because the victim was engaged in a specified federally-protected activity. The proposed legislation broadens the current law to cover all violent crimes motivated by race, color, religion, and national origin when the defendant causes or attempts to cause injury, regardless of what activity the victim was engaged in. In addition, the proposed legislation expands current law to include violence motivated by sexual orientation, gender and disability.
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 applaud the Senate for taking the lead in passing these important protections against hate-motivated violence. We urge the House to take action on this issue before the end of the 106th Congress. We are mindful of the demands of the Congressional calendar, but experience teaches us that where there is a political will, there is a procedural way.
Note to editors: This morning's press conference marked the launch of "United Against Hate," a campaign to end hate-violence. The United Against Hate website is featured on the Religious Action Center's website.
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.