November 24, 2014 · 2 Kislev

Join Us

Key Topics

Give

Statement of Rabbi David Saperstein Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism at United Against Hate Rally in Support of Federal Hate Crimes Legislation
LAFAYETTE PARK
September 28, 2000

We stand here today, gathered once again in grief over a crime committed because of hate. Danny Lee Overstreet was killed Friday night when a man, frustrated by jokes made about his last name, opened fire in a gay bar in Roanoke. He killed because he wanted, by his own admission, to get rid of "faggots."

Those who murdered Matthew Shepard did far more than end the life of a beautiful, promising, loving young man. Those who brutally dragged James Byrd to his death did far more than end the life of a decent, hard-working, loving father and grandfather.

Those who murdered Matthew Shepard did far more than end the life of a beautiful, promising, loving young man. Those who brutally dragged James Byrd to his death did far more than end the life of a decent, hard-working, loving father and grandfather.

The young man who shot at Jews and Blacks and Asians in Chicago did far more than wound several human beings and end the lives of two of God's children. And, this weekend, Danny Lee Overstreet's murderer did not simply end the life of a compassionate, quiet, optimistic man. These perpetrators violated the very principles of American society.

Hate crimes are more than mere acts of violence. They are more than murders, beatings, and assaults. Hate crimes are nothing less than attacks on those values that are the pillars of our republic and the guarantors of our freedom. They are a betrayal of the promise of America. They erode our national well being. Those who commit these crimes do so fully intending to tear at the too-often frayed threads of diversity that bind us together and make us strong. They seek to divide and conquer. They seek to tear us apart from within, pitting American against American, fomenting violence and civil discord.

The Christian Coalition is arriving today in Washington to bring their moral vision of America to Congress. As people of faith, we cannot help but wonder why they do not stand with us today. As people of faith, we cherish the basic biblical injunction found in Leviticus 19:17: "You shall not hate your kinsman in your heart," and we seek to give life to that teaching by fighting against hate crimes directed against people because of who they are. As the Christian Coalition prepares to lobby in Washington, we can only hope that they will join us in our faith-based message of tolerance. The original promise of an America open to all is one that also embodies the teachings of our religious beliefs.

Congress now has the chance to renew this promise of America. The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act sits in Conference Committee. The Senate passed the language in June, and this month, the House overwhelmingly expressed their support for the language. The people of America are waiting. 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.

Driven by our memories of the victims of hate crimes, informed by our religious traditions, and inspired by the highest ideals of American history, we call upon the Conference Committee to retain the hate crimes language, and Congress to pass this legislation.

###

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.




Chai Impact Action Center
Take action on these top issues!

 

 
Travel Justly, Social Action Prayers, Program Bank, Holiday Guides Travel Justly Social Action Prayers Social Action Program Bank Holiday Guides
© Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, 1996-2013
View our Privacy Statement
URJ CCAR