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Reform Movement Optimistic About Regulations for Federal Victim Compensation Fund; Hopeful that Administration Will Include Same-Sex Families

Saperstein: "I urge the Administration to follow the examples of the State of New York and many relief organizations by living up to America's highest values-that our government is a government for all Americans-by promulgating regulations which do not discriminate against victims based on their sexual orientation."

Contact: Daniel Kaufman 202-387-2800


WASHINGTON, December 21, 2001 - The Reform Jewish Movement expressed content and optimism in response to the federal government's announcement of regulations for the Victim Compensation Fund. The guidelines leave open the possibility that all victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks will receive funding, although the Administration did not specifically include same-sex families in the announcement. The Reform Jewish Movement remains hopeful that same-sex families will be included.

The Administration yesterday released guidelines on the federal Victim Compensation Fund, which was created to assist families affected by the tragedy. Because the guidelines do not explicitly include or exclude same-sex families, the decision about who will receive funding will be left to the fund's Special Master, Ken Feinberg.

In response to the Administration's announcement, Rabbi David Saperstein, the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said,

"It is unquestionable that the devastating grief and economic losses suffered by the families of gay and lesbian victims are no less than that of other families. Just as the terrorists drew no lines in choosing their victims, our country must draw no lines in compensating those who suffered the most personal of losses from these horrific attacks.

Our tradition is guided by the very basic belief that all human beings are created b'tselem Elohim (in the Divine image). It is written in Genesis 1:27, "And God created humans in God's own image, in the image of God, God created them; male and female God created them." We oppose discrimination against all individuals, including gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, for the stamp of the divine is present in each and every one of us.

New York Governor George Pataki showed fairness and compassion in issuing an Executive Order granting surviving partners of gay and lesbian victims of the attacks equal benefits from the state's Crime Victims Board. The Commissioner of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance indicated that lesbian and gay families will be given consideration when funds are distributed from the state's World Trade Center Relief Fund. Major private relief organizations, including the American Red Cross, the United Way and the Sallie Mae 911 Education Fund, are also granting survivor funds, benefits and services to the partners and families of gay and lesbian victims.

Many Americans lost their lives on September 11, and each of the victims left behind loved ones. I urge the Administration to follow the examples of the State of New York and many relief organizations by living up to America's highest values-that our government is a government for all Americans-by not discriminating against the same-sex partners of victims in the administration of the Victim Compensation Fund."

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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 .



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